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On the Wall: Sheida Soleimani

March 30, 2022 –
October 1, 2022

On the Wall: Sheida Soleimani

March 30, 2022–
October 1, 2022

Reilly Gallery, Smith Center for the Arts

About the Exhibition

On the Wall: Sheida Soleimani

March 30 – October 1, 2022

 

On the Wall is PCG’s annual commission of large-scale artworks applied directly to the walls of Reilly Gallery. As part of an interdisciplinary initiative at the College to explore and develop new scholarship on the rich traditions of the mural format, Sheida Soleimani, an artist based in Providence, transforms the exhibition space to explore her unique family history.

 

Over the last decade, Sheida Soleimani has used tableau photography—which includes figures and objects arranged for picturesque or dramatic effect—to highlight critical perspectives on geopolitics, especially those between the greater Middle East and the United States. The artwork in On the Wall: Sheida Soleimani, subtitled “Ghostwriter” by the artist, epitomizes that mission with visual accounts of her parents’ life in Iran and the United States as political activists and refugees. It is also the first time Soleimani has ever explicitly explored her family’s history in her artwork.


References to pro-democracy activists of the Iranian Revolution and their rich iconography permeate the show’s many layers. Fabric curtains, silkscreened with a pattern inspired by an ancient Persian version of the luck-based game Snakes and Ladders, frame the gallery as a theatre of memory. Wall and floor murals map a courtyard as remembered and sketched by the artist’s mother. In Soleimani’s signature style, the photographs collapse space and subject matter into densely layered images, half documenting, half obscuring her subjects’ likenesses as well as their backgrounds. As a ghostwriter of her parents’ experience, Soleimani pulls together collective memories and personal narratives to portray how the political past and its residual effects remain ever-present.

 

On the Wall: Sheida Soleimani is the artist’s first institutional solo exhibition in her hometown of Providence. Lead support for the exhibition is generously provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional funding is provided by Providence College’s Office of Academic Affairs and Department of Art and Art History.

About the Artist

Sheida Soleimani was born in 1990 to political refugees who fled Iran in the mid-1980s. As an Iranian American, she builds photographic tableaus that dramatize Middle Eastern geopolitics and satarize the reporting of West and East alike. Her photographs often source imagery from popular media and adapt them to exist within alternative scenarios, including photographs, moving image, sculpture, and theatre. Like propaganda posters and art forms that emerge in times of crisis (Dada, Relational Aesthetics, Identity Politics), her works chronicle oral histories to portray events that have been shrouded by Western reportage, situating her practice and discourse not only in art, but also in political activism.

Soleimani holds an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a BFA from the University of Cincinnati, College of Art. Her most recent solo exhibitions were at Harlan Levey Projects in Brussels, Denny Dimin Gallery in New York, and the evolving exhibition Medium of Exchange that examined how oil is interchangeable with currency and the corruption at the center of the petroleum industry. Medium of Exchange traveled to six different locations from Edel Assanti in London to the Atlanta Contemporary, in Atlanta, GA. Soleimani is represented by Edel Assanti in London, Harlan Levey Projects in Brussels, and Denny Dimin Gallery in New York. Soleimani has been written about in The New York Times, Artforum, Hyperallergic, The Brooklyn Rail, among many others including BEAUTIFUL/DECAY founded by artist Amir H. Fallah. She lives and makes work in Providence and is an Assistant Professor of Studio Art at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.