Other Forms of Life is a survey of recent work by the New York–based artist Huma Bhabha(American, born 1962 in Karachi, Pakistan), showcasing key moments in her varied artistic practice from the past decade, including examples in sculpture, photography and collage, drawing, and printmaking. As part of this exhibition, a bronze work, God of Some Things, 2011, is on view outdoors at the museum’s fourteen-acre sculpture park, Laguna Gloria.
Figurative sculpture plays a primary role in Bhabha’s practice. She is known for her masterful use of cork as a sculptural material, often paired with Styrofoam and paint. Other sculptures combine clay with found objects or are cast in the traditional material of bronze. Bhabha’s references are encyclopedic, with a range of sources spanning Greek and Indian civilizations (such as Greek kouroi or Gandharan Buddhist iconography), magical realism, science fiction, and cinematic horror tropes (such as Jorge Luis Borges, Arundhati Roy, and classic 1970s and 1980s sci-fi and horror films). With nuance and careful consideration, Bhabha’s works also draw from a wide spectrum of modern and contemporary art, with influences ranging from twentieth century artists such as Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, Leon Golub, and Robert Rauschenberg, to contemporary artists such as David Hammons and Richard Prince. Just as science fiction often uses metaphor to describe our present-day, Bhabha also considers her work to be responsive to the present, particularly the wide-reaching influences of colonialism, politics, and war.
In Other Forms of Life, blending past and future into a mysterious present, Bhabha’s beings exist outside of time. The life she conjures up can be human, alien, god, plant, animal, or machine, and takes a multitude of forms. Through her unique combination of representation and abstraction, the artist’s two- and three-dimensional objects propose new ways of looking at the figure, and form, in contemporary art.
Equally skilled in two dimensions, the gesture of Bhabha’s hand can be seen in her untitled vertical works on paper, which are often backed by a photograph taken by the artist—typically of an urban landscape—then covered in broad gestural brushstrokes that outline a mask or face. Included are simple collage elements such as cutouts of canines and wildlife from environmental calendars or marijuana buds from the countercultural magazine High Times, perhaps a nod to the elements of wild nature that still infiltrate and influence our lives. A grouping of abstract rubbings on white paper are sculptural footprints left behind, remnants from Bhabha’s studio floor; on the wall they transform into maps or windows to other worlds.