Zarina: Paper Like Skin installation view at the Guggenheim (Image courtesy Guggenheim Museum)

Zarina: Paper Like Skin installation view at the Guggenheim (Image courtesy David Heald / Guggenheim Museum)

Zarina’s prints, created with woodcuts on handmade Indian paper, bring to mind for me worn-down maps. That comparison makes sense given the artist’s own meandering background; Zarina Hashmi (her full name) was born in Aligarh, India, and learned her craft in Bangkok, Paris, and Tokyo before settling in New York. In association with her ongoing retrospective, the artist will talk about her wide-ranging aesthetic vocabulary at the Guggenheim on Friday, March 1 at 6:30 PM, with a viewing and reception to follow.

Zarina, "Dividing Line" (2001) (Image courtesy Guggenheim Museum)

Zarina, “Dividing Line” (2001) (Image courtesy Guggenheim Museum)

The rough edges and meandering lines of Zarina’s work show a wandering intellect and an interest in the poetry of humble materials. She often uses handmade paper from India, Japan, and Nepal, working with the different textures and luminosities of various materials to create her prints. Beyond using it as a surface, the artist also turns paper pulp into sculptures that are later cast in bronze.

With a visual vocabulary that stretches from urban street maps to architectural layouts and strings of prayer beads, Zarina’s oeuvre is at once exotic and familiar. Her visual investigations mesh with an interest in physical space and political boundaries, perhaps inspired by childhood experience of Indian Independence and the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. Stretching through most of the 20th century, Zarina’s work tells an alternative history of modernist abstraction that is explored in the Guggenheim’s exhibition, which features a suite of 20 works from a series of pin drawings created from 1975 to 1977.

On March 1 at the museum, Zarina will discuss her artistic practice with Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University’s Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature. Tickets are $12 ($8 for members) and are available at the museum’s website.

Zarina: Paper Like Skin runs at the Guggenheim Museum (5th Ave at 89th Street, Manhattan) through April 21.

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...