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Sci-fi and Ancient Cultures Collide in Modern Mixed-Media Works

New York-based artist Huma Bhabha magpies old and new to connect the contemporary with the archaic.


In the Shadow of the Sun 2016 Cork, styrofoam, acrylic paint, oil stick. Photo courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery

Everything from Giacometti to classic sci-fi and horror movies, Cambodia's ancient temples at Angkor Wat, and the Gandhara Civilization of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan from 3,000 years ago come together in the mixed-media works of Pakistan-born, New York-based artist Huma Bhabha. 

Her current show at London's Stephen Friedman Gallery features collages and sculptures—sometimes combining the two—that link the contemporary with the archaic. The collages feature enlarged photographs the artist's taken in Berlin and Karachi, which she augments with spray paint, ink, and oil stick, applying cutouts of weed buds from High Times magazine as eyes on an abstract head. An upside down fragment of a Lil Kim concert poster from a local venue to Bhabha in Poughkeepsie, New York where she lives, becomes a collaged midriff. Spliffs become genitals.


Castle of the Daughter 2016 Cork, styrofoam, acrylic paint, oil stick, wood. Photo courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery

Her figurative sculptures, influenced by Louise Bourgeois, are formed from clay, bones, and wire. She creates totemic cork and styrofoam sculptures, one of them eight feet tall, filtered through the Giger-esque cinematography of Alien and Prometheus—merging the fictions and myths of those alien civilizations with those of Earth. One cork sculpture is a pig-nosed bust that looks like it could be a "Da Funk"-era Daft Punk helmet that's been preserved in a bog. 


House of Traps 2016 Cork, acrylic paint, oil stick, rubber. Photo courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery

The resulting artworks are creepy but fascinating, their bricolage of references and materials making them appear like strange artifacts and ruins from an alternate history, where ancient, modern, and pop cultures coalesce into one.


Untitled 2016 Ink, collage, acrylic paint and oil stick on colour photograph. Photo courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery


Untitled 2016 Ink, collage and oil stick on colour photograph. Photo courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery


In the Shadow of the Sun 2016 Cork, styrofoam, acrylic paint, oil stick. Photo courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery


Special Guest Star 2016 Clay, wood, wire, t-shirt, acrylic paint, tin, paint brush, horns and steel. Photo courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery


Untitled 2016 Ink, collage and acrylic paint on colour photograph. Photo courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery

Huma Bhabha runs November 22 2016 to January 21, 2017 at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Find out more about the exhibition here

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