Salman Toor’s sumptuous and insightful figurative paintings depict intimate, quotidian moments in the lives of fictional young, brown, queer men ensconced in contemporary cosmopolitan culture. Toor playfully engages the history of European painting, particularly certain Baroque, Rococo, Romantic, and Impressionist masters with whom he shares an aesthetic kinship; he disrupts entrenched attitudes toward gender and race prevalent within this tradition by introducing elements of fantasy, humor, and cultural hybridity.
Toor’s work oscillates between heartening and harrowing, seductive and poignant, inviting and eerie. In many of his paintings, he creates subtly disarming depictions of familiar domestic environments in which often-marginalized bodies flourish in safety and comfort. In other pieces, Toor creates allegorical spaces of waiting, anticipation, and apprehension; border crossings into a world that may or may not be welcoming. Central to his work are the anxieties and the comedy of identity. In creating his figures, he employs and destabilizes specific tropes in order to reflect on the way difference is perceived by the self and by others. As Whitney curators Christopher Lew and Ambika Trasi have noted, Toor’s project is one that examines “vulnerability within contemporary public and private life and the notion of community in the context of queer, diasporic identity.” Furthermore, in depicting the mundane and the memorable moments of his characters’ lives, Toor reveals a deeply relatable existence, ultimately creating an opportunity for empathy through the language of painting.
Toor was born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1983 and currently lives and works in New York. He studied painting and drawing at Ohio Wesleyan University, and received his MFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Salman Toor: How Will I Know, the artist’s first institutional solo exhibition, will open at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York when the museum resumes programming. Toor’s work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including most recently Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Xenia: Crossroads in Portrait Painting, Marianne Boesky, New York; Them, Galerie Perrotin, New York; Are You Here?, the Lahore Biennale 2018, Pakistan; and the 2016 Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India. Recent solo shows include I Know a Place at Nature Morte Gallery, New Delhi, India; New Paintings at O Art Space in Lahore, Pakistan; and Time After Time at Aicon Gallery, New York, NY. Upcoming exhibitions include Relations: Diaspora and Painting, Phi Foundation for Contemporary Art, Montréal, Canada; A Story With No End: A conversation with timeless treasures from Xinjiang, M Woods, Beijing, China. Toor is the recipient of a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, and his work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Tate, London, UK; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.