January 25–April 21, 2013
Zarina: Paper Like Skin is the first retrospective of the Indian-born American artist. Born in the northern Indian city of Aligarh, in 1937, Zarina Hashmi, who prefers to identify by her first name, has spent the majority of her life outside of her native country. Her largely abstract aesthetic is woven together with an acute political consciousness, originating in early recollections of Indian Independence and the 1947 partition demarcating the border between India and Pakistan, which resulted in the violent displacement and deaths of millions of people. Zarina’s oeuvre explores themes of diaspora, nostalgia, and memory.
Established as a master printmaker, Zarina’s earliest works demonstrate a formalist immersion in the possibilities of the medium of paper and printmaking, as well as a commitment to Minimalism and abstraction. Her mature works display interventions on paper that are at once fierce and delicate—she pierces, folds, scratches, and cuts monochromatic grounds—creating textured surfaces that invite intimate viewing and extended contemplation. Zarina emphasizes the sculptural sensibility that underlies printmaking, originating in the carving of a woodblock or the assembly of a relief collage. In the 1980s, she literalized this interest by casting three-dimensional works with paper pulp, creating forms that would become cast bronze sculptures. Nonetheless, paper remains the artist’s first passion. Beyond its materiality, it is allied with literary tradition. Urdu poetry and calligraphy greatly influence and inspire Zarina, who embeds evocative quotations and references throughout her work.
The artist's most recent works are imbued with a meditative spirituality. With sculptural representations of prayer beads, the use of gold and obsidian, and augmented scale in paper works rising six feet tall, Zarina directs the viewer’s mind to ideas of nothingness and infinity, encumbrance and enlightenment, eternity and nevermore. Paper Like Skin presents a survey of the artist’s career that encompasses the autobiographical topographies of distances traveled and time spent, superimposing historical events and personal experiences by way of the elusive, ineffable, yet essential, idea of home.
Zarina: Paper Like Skin was organized by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. The presentation at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is supported in part by the LLWW Foundation and the Leadership Committee for Zarina: Paper Like Skin, with special thanks to Luhring Augustine, New York.
Zarina, Dividing Line, 2001 (detail). Woodcut printed in black on Indian handmade paper mounted on Arches Cover white paper, sheet: 65.4 x 50.2 cm, image: 40.6 x 33 cm. Edition 16/20. UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum. Purchased with funds provided by the Friends of the Graphic Arts. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.