Hadi Salehi: SOUL

A Solo Exhibition
by Hadi Salehi

November 7th, 2021 – December 11th, 2021

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Install Images

Curatorial Statement

Hadi Salehi warmly greets us with his new exhibition SOUL, including works created during the pandemic. Tapping into a deeper level of consciousness, Hadi Salehi’s analog photography treats image-making as a poetic practice. The unique mechanical and chemical processes employed by the experienced artist coalesce to form a metrical composition that transcends definition. By intimately exploring these ethereal portraits, this exhibition strives to articulate the spiritual nexus Hadi Salehi intuits as the connection amidst all life. Looking beyond mere physicality, Hadi strives to capture hearts, imbuing his compositions with an expressive essence singular to each subject. Hadi connects to souls, through his work he invites others to discover, honor, and cherish the layered spiritual presence of this existence.

Artist Biography

Hadi Salehi is a master of the art of analog photography. Salehi’s images capture diverse portraits that are powerful and soft, leaving a haunting quality that lingers in the psyche. Salehi seeks to create a collective awareness as a cultural messenger through his images, revealing quiet truths through his process-intensive works. With a career that spans more than 40 years, Salehi has closely documented cultural innovators such as Keith Haring, as well as developed an expansive body of analog, digital, film, and mixed media works. Hadi Salehi is a graduate of Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, and currently resides in Los Angeles.

Artist Statement

The Wedding — Artist Statement

Surreal figures adorned with jewels and black-tie finery dissipate into the air around them like bubbles from a champagne flute. These timeless poses are the candid images of wedding guests Hadi Salehi photographed at the marriage ceremony of a friend in 1999.

Accidents in the processing of the Type 55 Film led to the clouded atmosphere and disrupted textures found in many of the compositions. These unexpected motifs were treasured by Salehi, who took the film back to his studio and archived it for future use.

The pandemic of 2020 allowed the artist to revisit his expansive archives and rediscover these poetic images, all the extra time in the studio granted him the opportunity to manipulate each dreamlike composition with further treatments. Printed by hand with the classic Gelatin Silver technique, this unique series of limited edition works epitomizes Salehi’s trademark ethereal aesthetic and passionate devotion to analog methodology.

Suspended in sublime celebration, the mysterious subjects of “The Wedding” whisper enigmatic, intangible truths which echo throughout their shared reverie. Created in a series of serendipitous events, this body of work contemplates sacred and ineffable qualities of the human condition by virtue of time, spontaneous gestures, and fateful decisions.

Fluidity — Artist Statement

Combining film negatives of black and white portraits taken throughout the 2000s, the “Fluidity” series examines contemporary interpretations of gender and sexuality as 70-year-old analog photographer Hadi Salehi perceives and understands them. Hadi’s practice has always dealt primarily with the creation of evocative, layered images that the artist manipulates with chemicals, inks, and collage elements to visually represent his lifelong exploration of the human condition and all its complexity. Composed and printed by hand in 2020 at the artist’s Los Angeles studio, these layered, serene characterizations break down gender-specific barriers and interrogate the traditional binary. “Fluidity” focuses its gaze on issues of gender equality and LGBTQIA rights through soft, intimate portraits designed to express our common humanity and promote enhanced understanding towards all walks of life.

Reconfigured — Artist Statement

During the past year under lockdown, Hadi Salehi has had time to reflect and look inward. Early on in the pandemic, the 70-year-old LA-based analog photographer began combing through his extensive archive of prints and film, eventually coming across a series of never before used photos from 2015. First, the artist developed each image by hand using the gelatin silver print process on Ilford warm tone double weight fiber-based paper, then Salehi began experimenting with combining the images through layering and collage.

Throughout this cathartic process, Salehi contemplates the past, reflecting on the shifting nature of memory. This became the basis of the Reconfigured series. Remembering the joys and sorrows of his life, Salehi realized that his feelings toward certain memories had changed as time went on, his present self retouching and at times reconstructing the past altogether. Salehi works to embody this complex feeling in the Reconfigured series, where images are cut, broken, and disintegrated, only to take on new life once combined with other prints.

Layers — Artist Statement

Hadi creates in layers, he is always experimenting with the developing process of each photograph. Using a myriad of antique cameras, Hadi’s work begins with an analog portrait of his subjects, followed by the manipulation of those images. Hadi carefully pulls each photograph apart in its base negative form and applies emulsion in a painterly fashion to create spontaneous and dynamic effects to the ink of the photograph. Through this layering of positives and negatives, text and imagery, Hadi creates imagery that is unique and soulful, and as modern as it is vintage.

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