Zarina: Paper Like Skin

Zarina: Paper Like Skin

by Lauren Kolumbic

CLOSING April 21st

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10128

Visiting the Guggenheim is an awe-inspring experience, no matter what exhibition is gracing the spiraling rotunda. While the vivid Gutai exhibition is currently keeping visitor’s heads on a swivel as they stroll up the ramp, I urge you not to miss Zarina: Paper Like Skin before it closes on April 21st.

The first major retrospective of artist Zarina Hashmi, the exhibition presents the artist’s prints, paper-sculptures, and a special installation showcasing her extraordinary command of materials. Though she works with a minimalist aesthetic, I was touched by the level of feeling communicated through the work. The work is beautiful in its simplicity, but the complex issues that haunt Zarina are clear in each piece, whether it is separation from her homeland and her family, or an existential examination of the nature of the soul.

The exploration of her own culture, as well as aspects of others she has assimilated are explored in many of the works on view in the retrospective. “Home” is a loosely defined concept for the artist, who has lived in various locations throughout much of her adult life.The effects of global habitation are clear in Zarina’s artwork; the paper itself is a multicultural manifestation of the locations the artist has lived and worked. Zarina has gleaned inspiration from paper making and printmaking techniques around the world, revealing the universal nature of the medium.

I was particularly fascinated with Zarina’s paper sculptures. Though they appear as solid as bricks, the sculpture could be easily destroyed by force or torn about by wind, rain, or other natural disaster. The process of molding and shaping such a fragile material may be a metaphor for Zarina’s life, as her family was affected by political upheaval during the partition of India, and displaced across the border. The appearance of durability projected by the delicate sculptural work reveals a truth known to Zarina and her family: no matter how carefully we attempt to control our lives, stronger forces may affect our trajectory.

Pictures cannot do these works justice, but here is a look at what you will see in the exhibition:

Shadow House, 2006

Shadow House, 2006
Cut Nepalese Paper
69 x 39 inches


Phool (Flower) 1989
Cast paper with pigment
Ed 2/5
22 1/2 x 18 1/2 x 3 3/4

Seed, 1982
Cast paper with pigment
Ed 1/3
24 x 23 x 1 inch

Dividing Line, 2001

Dividing Line, 2001
Woodcut on Indian Handmade Paper
Ed. 16/20
16 x 13 inches

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