12.09.20 Press

Sheida Soleimani: Hotbed featured in the New York Times

by JILLIAN STEINHAUER

Through Dec. 23. Denny Dimin Gallery, 39 Lispenard Street, Manhattan. 212-226-6537, dennydimingallery.com.

You would be forgiven for thinking that Sheida Soleimani made the photographs in her exhibition “Hotbed” digitally. Collapsing space and subject matter into densely layered images of body parts, food, electronics and more, they’re informed by a certain internet aesthetic. But Ms. Soleimani’s artworks are analogue, compositions of items arranged in her studio. Their premise, then, is epistemological as much as formal: Much of what we think we know is a distortion or an illusion.

Ms. Soleimani seeks to rectify that by using her practice to deepen viewers’ understanding of Iran, from which her parents escaped in the 1980s as political refugees. The realities of life there, the country’s tense relationship with the West, and the geopolitics of the Middle East are the focus of her work. Her 2018 solo show at CUE Art Foundation denounced the operations of the global oil economy by caricaturing its leaders. “Hotbed” maintains the same critical bite but channels it into still lifes that are more challenging and complex.

The standouts here come from two series. “Crudes” features conceptual “portraits” of crude oil blends, like “Iran Heavy” (2018), which is represented by a fish blowing a gum bubble and leaning against weights. The piece is bizarrely seductive, but also filled with deeper meanings — for example, both the gum and weights are made with petroleum products. “Levers of Power” dissects the pageantry of politics by isolating the arms of American and Iranian politicians. As disembodied limbs point and wipe amid fields of symbolic props, the gestures of the powerful are rendered hollow and absurd.

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