Discussing the effect of the veil on Muslim women, Shahzia Sikander has said that it sometimes does the opposite of what is intended: “It gives the mind the liberty to imagine form.” Similarly, the artist has embraced the rigid tradition of miniature painting from her native Pakistan not as a set of constraints but as a foundation for experimentation. She uses it as a structure to explore her own contemporary artistic identity, turning it into a matrix for the visual languages of numerous cultures, both traditional and modern, Eastern and Western.
Sikander often told the story about how she was the first student in ten years to ask to concentrate on miniature painting when she enrolled at Lahore's National College of Arts in 1987. Sikander's reinvention of miniature painting inspired numerous others to follow.
The way that Sikander used the miniature tradition as a structure for visual diversity reflected the multicultural traditions of Pakistan. The culture incorporates both Muslim and Hindu elements and the strong influence of Persia. There was also the legacy of the British Colonial Period. Sikander's work, like contemporary Pakistani society, had elements that were Muslim, Hindu, Persian, Indian, and European. Sikander pointed out how she incorporated such things as Celtic imagery in her work. A careful unraveling of her work revealed dialogues with many unexpected visual sources.
For this exhibition, Sikander exploded the structure of the miniature into mural-size works painted directly on the wall, contrasting the scale of the mural with the preciousness of the miniature. Sikander also painted on large canvases saturated with tea, a reference to the role of women in Pakistan, where making tea is a woman’s task. Painting the gallery wall with tea connected the work with strong memories of traditional family life in her native country.
Sikander’s work weaves together memory, history, fantasy, mythology, and contemporary imagery to create a unique personal expression of a woman straddling traditional and contemporary culture. Her work demonstrates how the vocabulary of contemporary art has been enriched and expanded by artists who combine diverse cultural traditions to create a new, more global vision.
March 8 - 11, 2018
We will present a special solo project by the artist JR.
Image: JR, Migrants, Walking New York City, 2015
April - May 2018
18 Wooster Street
76 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013
Monday – Friday
10 AM – 6 PM
Tuesday – Saturday
Noon – 6 PM
The gallery reopens with People in April 2018.
+1 (212) 343-7300
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