in Collaborations , Videos | 04 NOV 20

Shahzia Sikander Questions Oppositions

For her inaugural exhibition at Sean Kelly, the artist questions the opposition of the traditional and the avant-garde

in Collaborations , Videos | 04 NOV 20
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Though her work refers to historical practices, for Shahzia Sikander it ‘never was a decision to be a “traditional artist”.’ Her question, as she explains in this video, was rather ‘who determines what is tradition.’ The artist’s first exhibition in New York City in nearly a decade comprises painting, video, mosaic and her first freestanding sculpture, all continuing and extending her efforts to develop an iconography which ‘counters a very narrow definition of the other, whatever the other may be.’

During her upbringing in Pakistan during the country’s second period military rule, art ‘became like a fuel’ says Sikander. New series of paintings in this exhibition, inspired by the technology of oil extraction in the Persian Gulf, offer, she says a ‘counter-narrative’ of abundance, creativity and imagination to ‘something that is extractive’. Growing out of her efforts to develop movements from iconography, Sikander describes the kinetic forms in her most recent video animation, Reckoning (2020), as inspired by ‘the idea of struggle’ between categories, ‘whether it’s power and powerlessness, whether it’s migrant and the local.’ Not passively accepting these as simple oppositions, Sikander instead seeks to ‘actively engage’ them. ‘You have to pull apart those categories’, she says.

‘Shahzia Sikander: Weeping Willows, Liquid Tongues’ is on view at Sean Kelly, New York from 5 November to 19 December 2020.