Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Shahzia Sikander's Sea of Stories at Otis

Shahzia Sikander
(detail from dissonance to detour, mixed media on paper)

Shahzia Sikander, who has traveled from Pakistan, to Rhode Island, to New York is now in Los Angeles for a short time, as a guest artist at the Otis College of Art and Design. Her recent work is on view until November 12 at Otis' Ben Maltz Gallery. Shahzia Sikander's exhibition "Dissonance to Detour", curated by Meg Linton, features new paintings on paper, a digital video animation, and a large wall painting.

There is a rich fluidity to this work, especially in the details which play with the idea of 17th century Mughal miniatures. There is an expectation of narrative and resolution within the paintings. But upon closer examination, the works slip into a vivid flux of color and line. By shifting the viewer's expectations from narrative to paint, Sikander refuses to create the works that might be expected. Instead Shahzia Sikander's exhibition evokes an imaginative response. While viewing the work, I put any thought of Pakistani-Indian politics aside and felt the spirit of Salman Rushdie's novel "Haroun and the Sea of Stories".

Two walls of very large paintings on dusty pink prepared paper dominate the room. The watered down paint puddles and skips in these works. Some of the lozenged painterly moments in the elephants (shown above), bring to mind the same sort of abstracted marking found in Chuck Close's recent paintings.

Shahzia Sikander
(still from digital animation)

The digital projections shown in the darkened room off the main gallery surprised me with their force when blown up to wall sized images. At Shahzia Sikander's show in New York at Brent Sikkema (now Sikkema Jenkins & Co.) in 2003, this type of work was presented in small frames that emphasized their connection to Mughal miniatures. Here in Los Angeles, magnified to silver screen size, the flow of images evoked thoughts of Terry Gilliam's rich film imagery.

Los Angeles is a city of many cultures-numerous villages, some almost third world in many respects- with only a thin veneer of Hollywood gloss laid on top. Los Angeles is also a city of images: digital, celluloid, tabloid - with a few hand crafted drawings and paintings scattered about. Shazia Sikander's artwork firmly shows that even in Los Angeles there still is an important place for images created by the mind and the hand.

Otis College of Art + Design
Ben Maltz Gallery
9045 Lincoln Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045 (just north of LAX)

Web site:
from dissonance to detour

Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 10am-5pm; Thursday, 10am-7pm

Shahzia Sikander is the inaugural artist in the Jennifer Howard Coleman Distinguished Lectureship and Residency Program sponsored by the Samuel Goldwyn Foundation. A catalogue of the exhibition will be available for sale in late October.

Also see:
shahzia sikander on the practice of art


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