sfai news

March 21, 2011

New exhibition Shahzia Sikander: The exploding company man and other abstractions opens at SFAI on April 23

The San Francisco Art Institute is pleased to announce Shahzia Sikander: The exploding company man and other abstractions, an exhibition of paintings, drawings, and animations by Pakistan-born artist Shahzia Sikander. The show is on view April 23–June 25, 2011 in SFAI’s Walter and McBean Galleries. An opening reception and live musical performance will be held on Friday, April 22 from 5:30-7:30 pm.

Now based in New York, Sikander studied miniature painting in the late 1980s at the National College of Art in Lahore, Pakistan. Since then, she has developed an original artistic practice that creates a new dialogue with this traditional painting style. By referring to the traditional forms of Indo-Persian miniatures, she conjures associations with imperialism, as well as storytelling and popular mythology. Yet by unraveling the conventions of miniaturist paintings, she also deconstructs the post-colonial legacy of the Indo-Persian region. Her work confronts and interrogates the perceptual distances between the cultures designated as ‘East’ and ‘West,’ an area of poignancy and difficulty in the current political climate.

Sikander’s primary materials include graphite, ink, and gouache on paper, and in 2001 she began working in digital animation, setting her miniatures into motion. This use of animation, as well as her layered images and the play between representational and abstract forms, visually embodies Sikander’s central concerns of transformation and societies in flux.

Shahzia Sikander: The exploding company man and other abstractions, curated by Hou Hanru, features work created during the last five years, along with the U.S. premiere of an animated video and live performance. This animation, The Last Post, is inspired by Sikander’s ongoing interest in the colonial history of the sub-continent and the British opium trade with China. The protagonist is an East India Company man—the “exploding” man of the show’s title—who appears in various guises throughout the work. At the opening reception, Du Yun, a New York-based musician originally from Shanghai, and Wally Scharold, a composer and guitarist from Oakland, will perform Gossamer, a piece conceived as a dramatic soundscape to accompany The Last Post.

The original collaboration between Sikander and Du Yun was an installation and performance piece at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai in 2010. Video documentation of this performance will be on view in the upstairs gallery. Other recent works by Sikander on display include the drawings Confrontation, Prolonged Exposure to Agitation, and Series of Transformations; the animated drawings Pursuit Curve and SpiNN; and the video Bending the Barrels.

This show at the Walter and McBean Galleries is part of the Global Figures component of SFAI’s Exhibitions and Public Programs, designed to bring some of the most remarkable actors in the current global art scene to West Coast audiences. SFAI’s Exhibitions and Public Programs are supported in part by the Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund with additional support provided by Art Now International.