Huma Bhabha is a Pakistani-born American artist whose work fuses ancient and modern styles in order to innovate and improvise on a long history of figurative sculpture. She holds a BFA degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from Columbia University. For her sculptures, Bhabha retrieves many of her materials from her local environment, a historic Hudson Valley city with industrial roots and riverside scenery.
Critics have lauded the ingenuity with which Bhabha transforms found materials and detritus into haunting anthropomorphic figures, forging spirit from cement, sand, bone, and paint. Her unique aesthetic, which seems to recall modernist assemblage, religious statuary, or mechanical wreckage, is commonly referred to as “postapocalyptic,” an implication that is rooted in both a futuristic vision and an aesthetic of ruins. Her work is thus adaptive to both pre- and posthistorical frameworks, and invites multiple associations.
Bhabha typically builds outward from an armature of Styrofoam or wood, over which she layers a wide combination of textures and objects. Constantly adding and removing, constructing and cutting away, she allows her materials to guide the final form of each piece through a long process of revision and adjustment. She also integrates a vast knowledge of art-historical archetypes; a front-facing “being” may carry hints of Greek kouroi, Egyptian pharaonic portraits, Dogon wooden statues, or the attenuated bronze figures of Alberto Giacometti, while the surface of a given work may be adorned with marks akin to the expressionistic brushstrokes in paintings by Jean Dubuffet, Francis Bacon, or Anselm Kiefer.
The form of her sculpture Against What? Against Whom? (2015) recalls the zigzag postures of Baule wooden sculptures, yet when approached in the round, it becomes clear that the piece comprises several figures with backs pressed around a central axis; a painted pink band below their necks gives the impression that they are bound together. Graffiti-like marks in red, blue, and green paint offer anatomical details or guides to the spectator’s eye, while the sculptures’ many crevices reveal knots, niches, and hidden faces, inviting a slow and rewarding viewing experience.