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MoMA PS1 presents first major solo museum exhibition of artist Huma Bhabha

Installation view of Huma Bhabha: Unnatural Histories, 2012. Photo: Matthew Septimus.

NEW YORK, NY.- MoMA PS1 presents the first solo museum exhibition of Huma Bhabha (Pakistani, b. 1962), comprising nearly 30 sculptures and more than a dozen drawings, including many newly created works on view for the first time. Organized by MoMA PS1 Curator Peter Eleey, Huma Bhabha: Unnatural Histories is on view on the 2nd floor of MoMA PS1 through April 1, 2013.

The sculptures and drawings of Huma Bhabha elaborate the ancient traditions of figuration and landscape, considering our place in an unstable world. Bhabha extends the lineage of postwar figural sculpture, which struggled to make sense of modern trauma, but also reaches back in time, typifying a strand of neoprimitivism that has arisen in the past decade. Insistently contemporary, her work nevertheless brings to mind art created across a range of cultures and historical periods.

Formally recalling the arrested poses of Greek kouroi and Egyptian pharonic statues, Bhabha’s sculptures evoke antique hybridized cultures like that of ancient Gandhara, in today’s northern Pakistan, which comingled Greek and Buddhist archetypes. Like such antecedents, her statues may appear bound to a distant past, while also seeming to arrive from the decaying ruins of some future civilization. They often suggest the robots and aliens of science fiction films and the monsters of Gothic literature, at once foreign and familiar.

Assembled but also carved, painted, and drawn upon, Bhabha’s sculptures combine long-standing methods and materials used to represent the human form with those more common in recent art history. She integrates industrial debris like Styrofoam, rubber, and wire mesh with organic materials such as clay, scavenged wood, and bones. Bhabha once worked for a taxidermist, and her masks and effigies are inflected by this experience of turning animal remains into hollow totems that celebrate human dominance over nature. Her spare and resourceful bricolage is inspired by the makeshift dwellings constructed from scavenged materials that the artist encountered around her native Karachi, whose landscape features prominently in her work.

The ghostly beings that populate Bhabha’s art stare blankly out in uncertain directions. They remind us of what we memorialize and worship, serving as monuments to a civilization marked by its idolatry of consumption, and no shortage of violence. Her landscapes give form to the unnatural nature of recent histories— including wars, deposed dictators, and ecological disasters—and her statues testify to what survives them. Constructed from the carcass of the present and its discarded utopias, her figures stand amidst the wreckage, “waiting,” in her words, “to wake up in a new world.”

Huma Bhabha (Pakistani, b. Karachi, Pakistan, 1962) lives and works in Poughkeepsie, NY. Having exhibited her work since the early ‘90’s she was recently included in the 2012 Paris Triennial at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France and in the 2010 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City. Bhabha was included in a group exhibition of sculpture at City Hall Park in New York City organized by Public Art Fund in as well as a group exhibition focusing on intercultural dialog at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam, both in 2010. She has also exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and The New Museum, both in New York City and was included in the 2008 Gwanju Biennial, Gwanju, South Korea. Her current solo exhibition at MoMA PS1 includes a sculpture that was first shown at MoMA PS1 in Greater New York 2005.

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