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Zarina woodcuts displayed on circular table
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Zarina, The Ten Thousand Things III, 2016. 100 collages on Somerset white paper, 9 x 6 inches each; at Luhring Augustine.

The printmaker and collagist Zarina Hashmi, who goes by her first name, is one of the foremost figures of South Asian art. She was born in the northern Indian city of Aligarh in 1937 and witnessed the communal violence of Partition firsthand. In some of her best-known pieces, such as Dividing Line (2001), she directly addresses the 1947 cleaving of India and Pakistan. Elsewhere, she deploys a minimal visual language, stressing materiality while also alluding to diasporic themes such as loss, displacement, nostalgia, and longing for home. (After living an itinerant life for many years, Zarina settled in New York in 1976.) However, the works in this exhibition of her recent collages were quieter and more reflective, featuring no direct references to politics or identity. While it may be impossible to make a final peace with Partition or the experience of immigration, Zarina seems to have declared a temporary truce.

The collages are made up of pieces of crushed handmade paper and of woodcut prints, materials that suggest delicacy and impermanence. The compositions are formally spare, if not slight, largely featuring geometric shapes such as triangles, crescents, quadrilaterals, and circles—Zarina studied mathematics—though two are representational, depicting the sky and a cityscape, respectively. The artist wove together strips of woodcuts in some works, but most often she assembled the pieces with glue. In a few instances, she included handwritten Urdu titles below the compositions, as if to counter the widely held notion that abstraction belongs to the West.

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