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Zarina at the Bronx Museum of the Arts

Author: Shehbaz H. S.      Publications: Asian Art News - Vol 2 (p.47)      Dated: Mar 1992

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From Aligarh, India, celebrated for its university and culture  permeated with Muslim ideals, to New York, celebrated for its many cultures, Zarina has survived alone. Now she has made a base in New York City where she excels. And her latest show, House Wtb Four Walls, could well be interpreted as New Yorks museum world belated  recognition of Zarinas talent.

lntroverted and workaholic, Zarinas wanderings, ubiquitous of nomadic Muslims, began in Bangkok, Thailand, with woodcuts in 1958. Then after mastering silkscreen printing, she apprenticed herself in two countries renowned for centuries as centres of printmaking: Germany and japan. Unlike many Asian artists she eschewed the decorative as she honed her creative skills to produce a marvellous balance of tech- niques from both countries. So here is a German legacy carried out in the spirit of Durer and woodblock printing saluting the flower of Ukiyo-e.

There is nothing Kafkaesque about Zarina crisscrossing these cultural boundaries. The Thai, German, and Japanese printmaking ventures she delved into remain an integral part of her creative milieu. Betty Wilde, curator at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, has remarked that “through their cryptic pattems of lines and spaces, the prints (of Zarina) become the narrative thread giving clues to the artists life story.”

Zarinas prints are visas for entering the House with Four Walk, cast bronze and aluminium sculptures meant for visual illusion. The sculptures in House with Four Walls range up to 12 inches high, miniature worlds of many images. The scale works brilliantly and is an extension of her concern for materials in a precarious ecology.

Having muted personal grief completely, and having freed the senses from neurosis so prevalent among contemporary artists, Zarinas creativity soars, a bird enjoying the currents. But also in House with Four Walls there are earthy, even archaeological, metaphors she interprets with formidable linearity.

Her wheels and rooftops echo village India; other works provide vague hints of mythic elements, lost realms, fragmented architectural ideals, none of which can be traced to a source. These are sculptural hieroglyphics by a strikingly original artist whose voice can be heard so clearly, and whose spirit is a triumphant spirit.

This exciting exhibition of sculptures and etchings can be seen at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York City, until May 10, 1992.