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San Francisco Art Institute Opens Shahzia Sikander Exhibit

The San Francisco Art Institute presents Shahzia Sikander: The exploding company man and other abstractions, on view April 23–June 25, 2011. Opening: April 22, 2011, 5:30-7:30 pm. The opening reception includes a performance by Du Yun accompanied by Wally Scharold.

Born in Pakistan and now based in New York, Shahzia Sikander studied miniature painting in the late 1980s at the National College of Art in Lahore, Pakistan and has since developed an original practice that creates a new dialogue with this historical genre. Breaking down clichéd cultural and political boundaries, her work opens up new frameworks in contemporary visual arts. By employing ideas that are often subversive and polemical in nature, she creates works that are physical manifestations of our globalized world.

Shahzia Sikander, “The Last Post,” 2010. HD video animation still. Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

Sikander’s primary materials include graphite, ink, and gouache on paper, and in 2001 she began working in digital animation, setting her miniatures into motion. This use of animation, as well as her layered images and the play between representational and abstract forms, visually embodies her central concerns of transformation and societies in flux.

Shahzia Sikander: The exploding company man and other abstractions, curated by Hou Hanru, features recent work, along with the U.S. premier of an animated drawing and live performance. This animation, The Last Post, first created for the exhibition By Day, By Night, or Some (Special) Things a Museum Can Do at the Rockbund Art Museum (Shanghai) in 2010, is inspired by Sikander’s ongoing interest in the colonial history of the sub-continent and the British opium trade with China. The protagonist is an East India Company man—the “exploding” man of the show’s title—who appears in various guises throughout the work. At the opening reception, Du Yun, a New York-based musician originally from Shanghai, and Wally Scharold, a composer and guitarist from Oakland, will perform Gossamer, a piece conceived as a dramatic soundscape to accompany The Last Post.

A new video collaboration between Sikander and Du Yun, also called Gossamer, will be on display at the Walter and McBean Galleries. Other works in the exhibition include the drawing series Confrontation and Prolonged Exposure to Agitation, and the videos Bending the Barrels, Pursuit Curve, and SpiNN.

Shahzia Sikander: The exploding company man and other abstractions is part of the Global Figures component of SFAI’s Exhibitions and Public Programs, designed to bring some of the most remarkable artists in the current global art scene to West Coast audiences.

Shahzia Sikander
Born in 1969 in Lahore, Pakistan, Sikander received her BFA from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan in 1992 and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1995. Selected solo exhibitions include Authority as Approximation, Para/Site (2009), Hong Kong; Shahzia Sikander Selects, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (2009), New York; Intimate Ambivalence, IKON Gallery (2008), Birmingham; Interstitial: 24 Faces and the 25th Frame, Daadgalerie (2008) Berlin; Shahzia Sikander, Irish Museum of Modern Art (2007), Dublin.

SFAI’s Exhibitions and Public Programs are made possible in part by the Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund with additional donations from Art Now International and Asian Contemporary Arts Consortium San Francisco.

San Francisco Art Institute
Founded in 1871, SFAI is one of the oldest and most prestigious schools of higher education in contemporary art in the US. Focusing on the interdependence of thinking, making, and learning, SFAI’s academic and public programs are dedicated to excellence and diversity.

For more information about this exhibition or other public programs at SFAI, please visit or call 415.749.4563.

For information about graduate, post-baccalaureate, and undergraduate admissions at SFAI, please visit

Related Events:

April 20, 7pm: Shahzia Sikander in conversation with Hou Hanru, SFAI Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs.
Kadist San Francisco, 2401 Folsom Street

April 21, 7:30pm: Visiting Artists and Scholars Lecture, SFAI Lecture Hall

Walter and McBean Galleries
San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI)
800 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA 94133

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