Karachi Elegies

Anu Nanavati Chaddha recommends a exhibition of work by Naiza Khan currently on view at the Eli and Edythe Broad  Art Museum at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

New York: Naiza Khan is a contemporary artist from Pakistan. Born in 1968, the artist lives and works in Karachi, and has exhibited her work at various galleries and institutions around the world.

Naiza Khan, The Streets Are Rising, 2012-13.

Naiza Khan, The Streets Are Rising, 2012-13. Courtesy the artist and Rossi & Rossi Gallery, London. © Naiza Khan
Image courtesy Eli & Edythe Broad Museum of Art

The exhibition, titled ‘Karachi Elegies’ and curated by Karin Zitzewitz, MSU assistant professor of art history and visual culture, will be the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States, where she “…will show oil paintings, sculpture, and video works that map the tragic geography of violence in Karachi and place the human figure within it.  Khan uses the term “disrupted geography” to describe her oil paintings and video works, in which she layers striking images and words to create a dream-like topography.  In her landscape paintings, ruined structures are the lone traces of life.  Her steel sculptures of lingerie armor similarly refer to the human figure without actually representing it, but are evocative of both delicacy and strength.  In artworks of extraordinary beauty, Khan’s work provides a complex and sensitive window onto life in one of the world’s most troubled cities” (Exhibition note, Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum website, accessed February 2013).

Naiza Khan, The Robe, 2008.

Naiza Khan, The Robe, 2008. Collection of Karen Stone Talwar. © Naiza Khan
Image courtesy Eli & Edythe Broad Museum of Art

Naiza Khan, Armour Lingerie V, 2007.

Naiza Khan, Armour Lingerie V, 2007. Collection of Dipti and Rakesh Mathur. © Naiza Khan
Image courtesy Eli & Edythe Broad Museum of Art

Saffronart‘s inaugural auction of the Modern & Contemporary Art of Pakistan included a sculptural piece by Khan from the same series as some of the works that are displayed in this exhibition. Speaking about this series of works, the artist notes, “The use of clothing in my work began as a strategy to explore the emotional content of the body through attire. Lingerie, armor, straight jackets, and other imagined pieces create multiple identities or personae. These objects address contemporary anxieties and desires, at a time when ideas about the ‘self’ seem unstable and rapidly shifting… These objects occupy a place between love and war, and are ambiguous in their position of aggression and seduction…I feel they are a part of my ongoing research into the nature of body politics as it is lived and felt in my present cultural context” (Naiza Khan, “Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan”, Asia Society website, accessed October 2012).

Naiza Khan, Untitled

Naiza, Khan, Untitled
Image courtesy Saffronart

The exhibition will remain on view until 26 May 2013.

Learn more about the exhibition

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