Born in Iraq in 1981, Hayv Kahraman currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Fleeing Baghdad at age eleven, she relocated to Sweden with her family and the refugee experience became a catalyst for her practice. Kahraman studied graphic design in Italy at the Accademia di arte e design di Firenze in 2005. Kahraman’s technically diverse practice includes painting, drawing, object-making and performance. Her semi-autobiographical works have a strong focus on the migrant experience and violence against women, with references to the Italian Renaissance, Japanese woodcuts and Iraqi architecture. Kahraman has a fascination with geometry and symmetry, incorporating abstract patterns into her work. 


Though gender and identity are consistent themes within Kahraman’s work, her practice is ever evolving in style and technique. Recent painted works have seen the artist experiment with the manipulation of the canvas itself. This sculptural element is reminiscent of the traditional Iraqi method of weaving ‘Mahaffa’, a type of handheld fan and speaks to the artist’s memories of childhood. Examining the marginal spaces of diasporic life, the artist looks to contest and renegotiate boundaries found in the social and political third space between Western and Middle Eastern culture. Kahraman uses her singular visual vocabulary to portray the migrant experience, one that lacks constancy while embracing multiplicity. Kahraman uses the beauty of her paintings to tell horrifically brutal tales, particularly those of women victimized within their own culture. Repeating female imagery over and over allows her to build an army of women, to restore their agency as a collective so that it may be felt individually. Using the body as the last remaining site of resistance, the artist reclaims control of the female form. 


Recent solo exhibitions include; Look Me in the Eyes, Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco, San Francisco, USA (2024); Gut Feelings: Part II, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2023);Gut Feelings, Mosaic Rooms, London, UK (2022); The Touch of Otherness, SCAD Museum of Art, Georgia, USA (2022); The touch of Otherness, Vielmetter Los Angeles, USA (2021); Not Quite Human: Second Iteration, Pilar Corrias Gallery, London, UK (2020); Hayv Kahraman: Superfluous Bodies, Honolulu Museum of Art, Hawaii, USA (2019); To the Land of the Waqwaq, Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Hawaii, USA(2019); Silence is Gold, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Los Angeles, USA (2018); Acts of Reparation, Contemporary Art Museum, St Louis, USA (2017); Hayv Kahraman, The Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, USA (2016); Audible Inaudible, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2016); How Iraqi are You?, Jack Shainman, New York, USA (2015).


Selected group exhibitions include; Women Defining Women In Contemporary Art Of The Middle East And Beyond, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, USA(2023); Perpetual Inventory, Volume 1: An Exercise in Looking, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2022); In the Heart of Another Country:The Diasporic Imagination, The Sharjah Art Foundation, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany (2022); Reflections contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa, The British Museum, London, UK (2021); There Is Fiction In The Space Between, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2020); 100 Masterpieces of Modern and Contemporary Arab Art, The Barjeel Collection, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France (2017); Thessaloniki Biennial 5, Thessaloniki, Greece (2015); Neighbors: Contemporary Narratives from Turkey and Beyond, The Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Istanbul, Turkey (2014); CONTEMPORARY: Architecture, Culture and Identity, Louisiana Museum of Modern, Humlebaek, Denmark (2013); Jameel Prize Tour, San Antonio Museum of Art, USA (2013) and The Victoria & Albert Museum, London (2011); Jameel Prize Tour, Museum of Fine Art, Houston, USA (2012); Disquieting Muses, Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Greece (2011); Of Women’s Modesty and Anger, Villa Empain Center for the Arts, Brussels (2011).


Her work is featured in various international collections including The Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE; San Diego Museum of Art, CA, USA; Birmingham Museum of Art, AL, USA; The Rubell Family Collection, Miami, USA; The Saatchi Gallery, London, UK; The Barjeel Art Foundation Sharjah, UAE; MATHAF: Arab Museum of Modern Art Doha, Qatar; Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, Ohio, USA; North Carolina; Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. 


Kahraman lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, USA.