Huma Bhabha second Pakistani-origin artist to be commissioned for Met’s Cantor Roof Garden

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NEW YORK – The Karachi, Pakistan-born artist Huma Bhabha, who now calls Poughkeepsie, New York, home, has been named the artist for the Met’s 2018 Cantor Roof Garden Commission, an annual staple of the city’s artistic and cultural tradition, and a huge commercial draw for the museum. Bhabha’s work will be the sixth in a series of commissions for the outdoor space with stunning 360 degree views of Manhattan.

The site-specific installation for the Met’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, entitled ‘We Come in Peace’, will be on view from April 17 through October 28, 2018.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a book published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

Bhabha’s work addresses themes of colonialism, war, displacement, and memories of place. Using found materials and the detritus of everyday life, she creates haunting human figures that hover between abstraction and figuration, monumentality and entropy.

Bhabha, who received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and her MFA from Columbia University, has been the subject of numerous national and international exhibitions, including Unnatural Histories at MoMA P.S.1, New York; All the World’s Futures at the 56th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, Italy; Players at the Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy; Intense Proximity at La Triennale, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France; 2010 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the 7th Gwangju Biennale, Korea.

In 2008, she received The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum Emerging Artist Award, and in 2013 she was awarded the Berlin Prize, Guna S. Mundheim Fellowship, by the American Academy in Berlin.

“Huma Bhabha’s work is powerful and arresting, informed by a deep and sophisticated engagement with art history, architectural space, an interest in popular iconographies and keenly responsive to political narratives, both historic and current,” Shanay Jhaveri, an assistant curator of South Asian art at the Met, told The New York Times, adding, “which makes her the right artist at this time for the commission.”

For the multipart installation, ‘We Come in Peace,’ Bhabha has “choreographed a dramatic mise en scene” of monumental sculptures, Jhaveri said.

Bhabha is the second Pakistani-origin artist to be commissioned for the Cantor Roof Garden. In 2013, Imran Qureshi was the chosen artist. His landscape of visceral red blooms painted in situ – detailed works on paper that he made in the style of the miniaturists who worked for the Mughal court – also echoed the verdant foliage of Central Park; a green space conceived in the nineteenth century to function as a site of respite and tranquility in the midst of the chaotic and cacophonous city.

Qureshi’s works are loaded with political connotations. The use of red acrylic in his installation were in response to brutal bombings and violence in Lahore, but he had then said it was also a pointer to fresh dialogue and hope, for a better tomorrow.

It’s likely that Bhabha’s work will resonate with a similar theme, present the face of moderate Islam, at a time where Islamophobia is growing globally.

Last year, Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas’ ‘The Theater of Disappearance’ had transformed the Cantor Roof. Sixteen sculptures that fused human figures with replicas of nearly 100 objects from the Museum’s collection, occupied a new black, white, and gray tiled floor. It was also an environmental transformation of the space, including an extension of the existing pergola and new plantings, public furniture, and a newly designed bar.

This writer’s favorite commissioned installation at the Met was a large-scale 30-feet sculpture ‘Psycho Barn’ by British artist Cornelia Parker, in 2016, inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper and by two emblems of American architecture – the classic red barn and the Bates family’s sinister mansion from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho.

The sculpture, simultaneously authentic and illusory, was fabricated from a deconstructed red barn and seemed at first to be a genuine house, but was is in fact a scaled-down structure consisting of two facades propped up from behind with scaffolding.

TIBET’S GLORY AT THE ASIA SOCIETY

The Asia Society will exhibit ‘Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting’, from February 27-May 20, 2018. It will comprise of more than 50 stunningly beautiful paintings collected by Italian scholar Giuseppe Tucci during his 1926–1948 expeditions to Tibet, along with a selection of striking photos depicting Tucci’s travels.

Works in the exhibition span the 13th through 19th centuries, and are on loan from the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art “Giuseppe Tucci,” Rome. The exhibition marks the first time they are on view in the United States.

One of the first Westerners to travel to the Tibetan plateau, Tucci led eight expeditions in search of remote monasteries and sacred sites. His extensive knowledge of Tibetan history and religion, and his mastery of Asian languages, including Tibetan and Pali—the language of earliest Buddhist literature—informed his acquisition of artworks. Paintings in the exhibition come from eastern, western, and central Tibet, and show a range of styles and subjects.

The majority of the paintings in the exhibition are religious paintings, intended to aid Buddhist practitioners on their path to enlightenment. Recent conservation of the paintings, many of which had been obscured by exposure to blackening soot and grease in their original temple and monastery settings, has restored much of their original luminescent beauty, sumptuous colors, and gold embellishments.

Among the most visually stunning works in the exhibition is a group of 14 images from a set of 17th century Arhat paintings, in the “Path of the Sutra” section of the exhibition. The large, beautifully painted works feature striking blue and green landscape elements and highly individualized portraits of important followers of the Buddha.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)

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