Born and raised in Pakistan, Shahzia Sikander (b. 1969) gained international recognition in the 1990s for her pioneering role in bringing painting traditions from South and Central Asia into dialogue with contemporary practices. Her work interrogates cultural identity, racial narratives, colonial and postcolonial histories, and issues of gender and sexuality. Through multivalent narratives layered across time, geography, and tradition, she shatters established hierarchies, norms, and stereotypes, using her imagination and playfulness to conjure extraordinary realities.
Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities, on view at the Morgan Library & Museum through September, explores the first 15 years of Sikander’s career, from her groundbreaking deconstruction of manuscript painting in Pakistan to the development of a new personal vocabulary at RISD, expanded explorations around identity as a Core Fellow at the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and her global outlook during her first years in New York. Her work during this period reflects a new openness in the United States toward artists working outside of commonly accepted models as well as a dramatic shift in the perception of Muslims following the events of 9/11. The potent vocabulary of Sikander’s early work continues to permeate her oeuvre today, and the subjects she confronted then have only become more relevant to contemporary discourse.
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