Huma Bhabha

The archaic futurism of Huma Bhabha makes material the protagonist in a rich theatre of reality.

For three decades Bhabha has created monumental figurations questioning the human race of past, present and future. She embodies complex reflections on colonialism, memory and war through her hands-on and intuitive use of materials. While Bhabha considers herself primarily a sculptor, her practice spans many mediums including drawing, printmaking, assemblage, painting, collage and photography.

 

Highlights
  • Against Time, solo show at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 2020-21
  • They Live, solo show Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2019
  • We Come in Peace, solo show at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2018
  • Greater New York, group show at MoMA PS1, New York, 2012
  • Work in collections including Bronx Museum of Art, New York; Centres Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Saatchi Gallery, London; the Sharjah Art Foundation; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.
Against Time by Huma Bhabha, Installation View
Installation view of Against Time, Huma Bhabha's solo show at BALTIC Gateshead, 2020-21. Image courtesy of the artist and BALTIC.
“These days, the global is local — and globalisation is the new colonialism."

In the early 1980s Bhabha moved from her birth town Karachi in Pakistan to study in the United States. She has lived between the two countries for much of her life — now residing in upstate New York. Early in her career, Bhabha would document the urban landscape of Karachi by taking photographs and collecting objects to incorporate in her sculptures. The use of found-objects as relics of contemporary history continues in her practice today.

Man of No Importance by Huma Bhabha
Man of No Importance, Huma Bhabha, 2006. Courtesy of the artist and Saatchi Gallery.
The Orientalist by Huma Bhabha
The Orientalist, Huma Bhabha, 2007. Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94.

Bhabha’s style is defined by an archaic futurism: ancient sculptural forms doused in epic sci-fi cinematics. This sensibility is rooted in a wealth of influences, from ancient Greek Kouroi and Gandharan Buddhas to modernists like Giacometti and Picasso, along with references to contemporary culture including 80s horror films by David Cronenberg. Quintessential works of Bhabha’s such as Beyond the River (2019) and Museum without Walls (2006) could easily be pharaoh, humanoid, alien or monster. With construction materials like wood, styrofoam and chicken wire clearly visible, Bhabha proudly reveals their making. These juxtapositions of commonplace materials and grand emblems of art history appear throughout her oeuvre — time-warping and indefinable.

Museum Without Walls by Huma Bhabha
Museum Without Walls, Huma Bhabha, 2005. Courtesy of the artist and Saatchi Gallery.
Beyond the River by Huma Bhabha
Beyond the River, Huma Bhabha, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian.
“My goal is that each work should be intense in its presence.”

Bhabha makes art a theatre of reality. The Company — her 2019 solo show at Gagosian in Rome — was based on The Lottery in Babylon written by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges in 1941. The short story describes a society governed by a system that disciplines and compensates people at random, controlled by an elusive group called ‘the company.’ In the show Bhabha visualises this powerful group, who in a contemporary context are as likely to be algorithms as physical beings.

The Company by Huma Bhabha, Installation View
Installation view of The Company, Huma Bhabha's solo show at Gagosian Rome, 2019-20. Image courtesy of the artist and Gagosian.

Vivid pastel drawings with splashes of neon were displayed alongside monolithic figures, a pair of giant dismembered hands and a photomontage of an ancient Eyptian dog. Like the sci-fi tale, the fantasy characters subvert real conditions of power in their own commanding performance.

With staunch originality, Bhabha steps back from our current moment to reveal a panoramic view of humanity’s histories, fantasies and futures.

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