Pakistani by birth, American by residence, Shahzia’s work engages with history and the multifarious ways in which it is formed and deformed over time, particularly through the written word. Shahzia thinks of drawing as an alternative to writing, which carries all sorts of cultural baggage with it. Fusing traditional Indo-Persian miniature painting with Minimalist abstraction, her work establishes an aesthetic bridge between the West and the East.
The exhibition includes painting, drawing, animation and mosaic, showcasing the breadth of the artist’s multi-valent practice. Sikander is renowned for recasting pre-modern Central and South Asian manuscript practices into avant-garde ruptures, deconstructing archetypal narratives around femininity, race, memory and migration.
The urgency of time and the assault on the living planet is teased out in Flared, a comment on the endless wildfires consuming California and other parts of the West. The recurring motif of valves, spools and knobs, serving as armatures, is based on a photograph of oil pumping platforms that Sikander found in a 1962 issue of BP magazine, which referred to the rigs as “Christmas trees.” She equated the term and its context with ingenious English wit, wryly commenting on the gift-bearing capacity of the oil rigs.