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b. 1937, Aligarh, India
Born in 1937 in Aligarh, India, Zarina Hashmi, who prefers to use her first name only, received a BS in mathematics from Aligarh Muslim University (1958) before studying printmaking, a passion awakened by her encounters with local papermakers during a visit to Rajasthan in the late 1960s. Zarina went on to study intaglio with Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17, Paris (1964–67), and studied woodblock printing at Toshi Yoshida Studio, Tokyo, on a Japan Foundation Fellowship (1974). Her early interest in math and architecture are revealed in her practice through her formal sensibility and emphasis on structure. Primarily working in intaglio, woodblock, lithography, and silkscreen, her work explores themes of home, displacement, borders, and memory.
Zarina is known for her decidedly minimal approach to the use of line on handmade paper, often including calligraphic text in Urdu, her mother tongue. Within her art, thick, rough lines are often deployed to depict political borders and suggest collective memories of violence and the marginalization of groups regarded as other. In works that focus on geographical, territorial, and social boundaries—such as Atlas of My World (2001) and …these cities blotted into the wilderness (2003)—imagery of maps and charts are used to explore personal recollections or feelings of dislocation within a diaspora. Father’s House 1898–1994 (1994) is a stripped-down architectural representation with rooms, spaces, and objects labeled in Urdu. Its focus on the presence of memory within a dwelling rather than the building’s formal properties generates a particular notion of home. Similarly, the series Home Is a Foreign Place (1999) is made up of 36 woodblock prints, each an abstraction of a remembered experience or space from her childhood home. Zarina’s interest in the technical qualities of paper have inspired works that entail the puncturing, scratching, and sewing of the material. An early series, Untitled (1977) is a group of pin drawings that includes 20 sheets of laminated paper, each repeatedly pierced with a sewing needle. Set in a grid, the individual marks appear almost obsessive in their quantity while alluding to the concept of multiplicity essential to Islamic art. The resulting condition of the paper evokes the individual scarring caused by social crises and the lasting impression of personal memory.
Zarina has received numerous awards and has been an artist in residence at various institutions, including Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts (2002), and the University of Richmond, Virginia (2007). She was awarded the grand prize at the International Biennial of Prints in Bhopal, India (1989), and received the New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in printmaking (1985, 1990). Zarina was one of four artists who represented India at the 2011 Venice Biennale. Solo presentations of her work have been exhibited at a range of international institutions: Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York (1992); Gallery Espace, New Delhi (2004, 2007, 2011); and Lakeeren–The Contemporary Art Gallery, Mumbai (2011). Zarina’s work has been shown in numerous group exhibitions, including those at the Norwegian International Print Triennial, Fredrikstad (1992); Asia Society, New York (1994); Queens Museum of Art, New York (1997); Williams College Museum of Arts (2002); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2008); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010); and The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989, Guggenheim Museum (2009). In 2012, the Zarina: Paper Like Skin retrospective was exhibited at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2012) and traveled to the Guggenheim Museum the following year. Zarina lives and works in New York.