Last year in the exhibition Scenes for a New Heritage: Contemporary Art from the Collection, we had the opportunity to show a selection of works from The Black Star (2007), a portfolio of twelve digital prints by Seher Shah (Pakistani, born 1975). Though acquired in 2008, the work was exhibited for the first time in this exhibition, in a gallery devoted to the suggestion of using the past as a means of interrogating the present.
Though she was born in Karachi, Shah’s life has been a peripatetic one. She moved to Brussels at the age of two, and later spent time in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States. Her adolescent years were spent in New York, and followed by a move to Providence, where she studied architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. Today she lives and works in New Delhi, and continues to travel extensively, resulting in a personal and specific cultural mash-up that blends elements from the various and varied places in which she has lived and studied.
Shah’s oeuvre to date consists primarily of works on paper, including digital prints and drawings that reflect her architectural studies. In The Black Star project, the layering of images encompasses minutely detailed architectural renderings, intricately wrought drawings referring to the miniature tradition, snippets of Mughal portraiture, and her own snapshots from her ongoing archive. Shah’s works create unique tensions: she includes concrete references, such as Mecca’s holiest site, the Kaaba, but her images possess a dreamlike lack of specificity overall; their beauty is tough and hard-edged, devoid of any exotic palette in favor of a nearly monochromatic one; and the images seem both historical and relentlessly of the moment. The reappearance of forms and figures in different sheets from the portfolio hint at a story and cast of characters that are viewed through a personal lens, but the images resist the soft focus of nostalgia and our desire to unravel a suggested narrative. Here, the technique is a perfect fit for the project, incorporating digital tools that have allowed the artist to easily collect and catalogue the recurring elements of her lexicon, and to layer the various elements of her source material.
Shah has moved in new directions since she made The Black Star in 2007. A visit to her studio in Delhi revealed that she is continuing to reexamine recent history and India’s modernist architectural legacy, in the form of small sculptures and woodblock prints, as well as in monumental, architecturally inspired drawings.
In this interview, recorded a few months before Davidovich’s passing, curator Ana Janevski talks with the Argentine-American artist about his career, his early days in New York City and Cleveland, and his work Tape Wall Project (1970/1988), recently acquired by MoMA. This is the first of two parts. Read the second part here. ANA JANEVSKI:…
ator Luis Pérez-Oramas considers the roots of the classicizing and modernist impulses in the work of Joaquín Torres-García. The essay examines a driving paradox of the artist’s work—the will to be modern while working against the grain of modernity—following episodes in his life, writings, and works.
Photography provided a guaranteed witness to the burgeoning genre of performance art in the 1960s, when restrictions in Socialist societies sometimes created a far different relationship between performance and documentation than in the West. Art historian Amy Bryzgel highlights several key works of Central and Eastern European
performance art from the MoMA Collection.
Art historian Y. L. Lucy Wang analyzes the architecture and photographic record of the 1955 Bandung Conference, revealing the ways in which the event visually projected its aims of South-South solidarity by bringing new meanings to architectural forms previously charged with colonial and historical associations.
The first of its kind on post, this interactive commission sees artists S. Yi Yao Chao and Poklong Anading and curator Chương-Đài Võ responding to three archival collections at Asia Art Archive and, more broadly, approaches to artmaking in Southeast Asia.
Art historian Simon Soon analyzes the texts and images in Syed Sheikh Syed Ahmad al-Hadi’s two-volume novel Hikayat Faridah Hanom (The Story of Faridah Hanom), published in Penang in 1925 and 1926, which notably repurposed photographic images from magazines.