Mohsen Gallery is pleased to present works by three Iranian photographers across two generations, Mehdi Abdolkarimi (b. 1986), Mehrdad Afsari (b. 1977), and Shahriar Tavakoli (b. 1969), as part of the inaugural edition of PHOTOFAIRS| San Francisco from January 27-29, 2017. Organized under the theme “landscape minimalism,” the exhibition can be found at Booth A04, for the duration of the fair.
In his large-scale photographic series Among Highways (2016), Mehdi Abdolkarimi widens our vision to study manmade and natural environments. Seeing society’s relationship to nature as one of conflict, Abdolkarimi considers humanity’s destructive effects on the natural environment. He tests the conceptual and spatial limits of the city by depicting either typical urban landscapes like highways and parks or, in an allusion to the history of painting, classical compositions like mountains and big skies. The former are captured at the dead of night, where stillness and darkness present an opportunity for solitude and contemplation, while the latter are portrayed in stark daylight as menacing as it is illuminating.
The scenes Mehrdad Afsari captures in Years Long Gone (2016) focus on landscape as imprinted by the shadow of human existence. Tire tracks and a square plot are stamped into the dust, ephemeral and about to be washed away with the rains of time, while a gemlike vision of the beach conjures the absent, suggesting footprints that have disappeared with a receding tide. As in Afsari’s more intimate tribute to his late grandmother (After Grandmother,2006), the current series incites viewers to a negotiation between past and present and individual and collective histories. Exhibiting human resilience in the face of a harsh land or taking joy in the unfathomable expanse of the ocean, Afsari’s images seem celebratory. Their austerity is beautiful, even if also ominous.
Shahriar Tavakoli’s images hearken one back to photography’s material roots: the manipulation of light. Vague golden glows and blood red sunsets appear alongside steely skies captured at dawn or dusk. Many of these ocean-scapes and landscapes are devoid of all human presence, so that Tavakoli seems to contemplate not so much the relationship between man and nature, but rather the sheer force of nature itself. Humanity thus seems but a mere speck in the context of much larger histories of the world and the universe.
While Abdolkarimi advances a more Cartesian worldview that posits life as a set of actions and reactions, Afsari mines individual and collective memories to offer a phenomenology that focuses on consciousness. Paradoxically, Tavakoli’s omission of the human subject offers meditative images that ultimately make us aware of ourselves as much as they draw our attention to the environment. In the reflection of the natural world that these three bodies of photographs represent, we find an opportunity to reflect on the nature of humanity.