In her exhibition Dark Roads, Zarina Hashmi commemorates the 70th anniversary of the 1947 Partition of India that created the nations of Pakistan, and later, Bangladesh. Zarina — born in 1937 in Aligarh, a city in north India, and who now lives in New York — prefers to go by her first name. Along with co-curator Alexandra Chang at the Asian/Pacific/American (APA) Institute at New York University, she selected works from the past three decades that speak directly to the ongoing impact of the upheavals resulting from Partition, as well as the underlying disruptions created by colonial powers, subsequent wars, and internal divisions.
Zarina’s etchings, woodcut prints, and handmade paper sculptural works circle around her personal narrative of displacement and her own subjectivity. As she put it in an interview last year, her works are colored by the “vocabulary of flight, borders, what it is to be separated from your family,” and the realities of being a peripatetic, dissident “other” in the US. But her work also reflects on the exodus of contemporary refugees, exiles, and migrants from locations where power, resources, territories, and borders are contested.
Partition — an exercise in cartography undertaken by an outgoing colonial power and internal political elite — was ill-conceived from the beginning. The delineation of a new nation was intended to alleviate the fears and insecurities of the Muslim minority in the region. But Partition resulted in a brutal historical moment marked by one of the largest recorded forced migrations, with 15 million displaced, well over one million lives lost, uncounted sexual assaults, and blazing destruction of property. The violence was so deeply etched into the memory of a generation that it continues to surface in visual art, films, and literature.
Zarina’s “Abyss” (2013), a woodcut print on BFK light paper, does not specify a particular landscape or border-making exercise. The zigzagging, shimmering silver line on a matte-black background appears the way a river might on a full-moon night, from an airplane; it is a route a lost traveller might follow in their blackest hour. Yet the attractive simplicity of that line — as well as the crude expediency of colonial border-making — belies the disruptions created by such easy delineations. This is an elegant topographical map of messy loss; that silver line speaks of a sharp line of suffering, and the failures of conventional words and images — so much so that the artist leaves the field surrounding it a black that absorbs all light.
Despite her works’ subtlety and minimalist approach, Zarina clearly directs our attention to the reasons for mass migrations, be they drone bombings or local despots, as well as to their effects on individuals. Her works take us to a faceless “Refugee Camp” (2015) — four rows and four columns of handmade, uniform paper tents, which nonetheless display small signals of individuality — and to perilous seas that tantalize the un-free with boundless liberty. The small boat she made for Alan and Ghalib Kurdi, who lost their lives to the Mediterranean before they reached the Greek island of Kos, reflects on the ways in which their lives were treated as though they were expendable, as well as the fragility of their parents’ dreams.
Zarina’s intricate works are necessary meditations during times when those who have lost everything remain on the coalface of political and social debates, which only paint them as threats and further efface their subjectivities.
Zarina: Dark Roads continues at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University (8 Washington Mews, West Village, Manhattan) through February 2.
Coasting the Topography of South Asian Futurisms
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Sadaf Padder presents an exhibition to offer insight into her curatorial process.
I’m a Florida Drag Queen and I’m Scared
I’m truly at a loss for what to do for work and what kind of life I can expect to live.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
An Artist’s Hopeful Vision of the Ocean
Indonesian artist Mulyana crafts a tactile, mystical world in which fish, whales, and coral reefs coexist with sea monsters.
An Introduction to “Afrogallonism”
Serge Attukwei Clottey explores Ghanaian culture and identity through discarded jerrycans and other found materials.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
A Ride With Liz Cohen
Nothing in the artist’s personal biography could predict that she’d one day become a car builder and bikini model.
LA’s Hammer Museum Wants to Be Seen
After two decades of renovations, the museum that calls itself a “well-kept secret” reopens with a mission to be more visible.
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
AI-Generated “Dope Francis” Fools the Internet
Many thought the picture of Pope Francis in a puffer jacket, created using Midjourney, was the real deal.
1,400-Year-Old Mural of Two-Faced Man Found in Peru
Historians hypothesize that the Moche paintings could represent artists’ attempts to experiment with portraying movement or narrative.
Miniature Worlds: Joseph Cornell, Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama
Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Louvre Shutters as Pension Plan Protests Intensify
President Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 has sparked widespread demonstrations across the country.
They Managed to Mess Up an Art Heist Movie
There must be a lesson in Vasilis Katsoupis’s film Inside about the vacuousness of the art market or the claustrophobia of exhibition spaces — I just don’t care.