Critics’ Picks

Zarina, Aleppo, 2013, Indian handmade paper dyed with Sumi ink, punched gold leaf paper, Arches Cover buff paper, 15 x 12 1/2".

New York


Luhring Augustine | Chelsea
531 West 24th Street
October 25–December 6, 2014

Throughout art history, the technique of collage has commonly been used to create juxtapositions that highlight disjuncture and difference. Zarina’s latest exhibition, “Descending Darkness,” is a tour de force demonstration of how collage might be used differently, more quietly. Her limited palette of black and gold coupled with her restraint and precision produces delicate, minimal paper-cut collages, through which one may probe issues of spirituality and mortality.

For the triptych Shadow on My Table I, II, III, 2014, black strips are carefully arranged on a white background to re-create the angular patterns that result from light streaming through window blinds. In the diptych Northeast Light I & II, 2014, thin horizontal strips mottled with gold leaf alternate with thicker strips of black paper on a printed rectangular black background, creating an abstraction that manages to capture the uncertain crepuscular luminosity of shortening fall days. Alternating thick and thin strips of black paper are similarly arranged in Steps III, 2014, the pattern only emerging once our eyes begin to register the subtly different blacks used. In all these works the seams and edges characteristic of collage are never declared but are revealed gradually through close looking.

Other works, like Aleppo, 2013, are less austere. Fragmented into an irregular array of rectangular black frames, the composition evokes both the pages of a miniature manuscript and an architectural floor plan. Holes punched in gold-leaf paper both index the titular city’s recent devastation and mimic a mashrabiya, carved wooden latticework often found covering second story windows in old Arab cities. And finally, Folding House, 2013, a set of fifty variations on the house, one of Zarina’s favored motifs, demonstrates the versatility of collage as a technique despite, or maybe because of, the restrictions of simple geometry.