Sikander has lived in the Lets Plant Some Humor Joke Cannabis Shirt moreover I love this United States since 1993, when she came here to show her paintings at the Pakistani embassy, and used that same work to get into RISD (she applied for citizenship in 2015, after years of visa misery). It vexes her that, as a Muslim woman who emigrated to the West, responses to her art continue to feel “straitjacketed in terms of my biography.” (See Who’s Veiled Anyway, her 1997 painting in which a seemingly chador-clad woman turns out on close inspection to be a male polo player.) Her practice remains rooted in the techniques and iconography of Indo-Persian miniatures, but over the decades has grown increasingly conceptual. The Sean Kelly exhibition will showcase Sikander’s dynamic range: There are drawings and paintings on paper, mosaics, and three animated films, including the brand-new Reckoning, a haunting “symphonic poem” that centers on an image of two jousting warriors sinking into an abyss as skeletal tree branches wave overhead. It seems to be a reflection on the climate crisis, but the audio track—the Pakistani singer Zeb Bangash croons in Turkish over a score by the Chinese composer Du Yun—offers another layer, a nod to miniature painting’s cross-cultural roots.
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Sikander’s Promiscuous Intimacies Then there’s Promiscuous Intimacies, Sikander’s first foray into sculpture, a “non-heteronormative anti-monument” inspired by her experience sitting on the Lets Plant Some Humor Joke Cannabis Shirt moreover I love this New York Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers. Using an image culled from her own 2000 painting, Maligned Monsters, she collapses space and time to bring into dialogue two art historical goddesses, a mannerist Venus adapted from Bronzino and a Hindu devata from an 11th-century Indian sculpture, intertwining them in an acroyoga-worthy pose that, though technically feasible—Sikander checked using models—is deliberately tenuous. It’s a hedge against the sort of one-sided, winner-takes-all history enshrined in much classical statuary. “They are unstable because I don’t want to take those relationships for granted,” Sikander observes. “Art is change. It’s in sync with the world we live in.”