Hanging Fire is the first U.S. museum exhibition to focus on contemporary art from Pakistan. Representing the current energy, vitality, and range of expression in Pakistan’s little-known yet thriving arts scene, the exhibition comprises nearly 50 works by 15 artists, and includes installation art, video, photography, painting, and sculpture. Curated by Salima Hashmi—one of the most influential and well-respected writers and curators in Pakistan—the exhibition presents a comprehensive look at recent and current trends in Pakistani art.
The exhibition begins with one of the last major works by the late artist Zahoor ul Akhlaq, considered the founder of modernism in Pakistan, who was tragically murdered in 1999 and whose work continues to influence younger artists. The recently established and distinctly Pakistani genre of contemporary miniature painting is examined through works by artists such as Mahreen Zuberi and Imran Qureshi, who skillfully manipulate the technical discipline and meaning of the hallowed illuminated Mughal manuscript tradition. Qureshi will also create a site-specific painting at Asia Society for the exhibition.
Other artists in the exhibition sift though the many layers of contemporary Pakistan to address issues from religious fundamentalism to pop culture, gender, politics, and much more. The clash of urbanization and rural life is dramatically illustrated in Huma Mulji’s new work High Rise: Lake City Drive. Similar contradictions between global perceptions and local realities are evident in the works of Rashid Rana.
The exhibition’s title, Hanging Fire, refers to an idiom that means “to delay decision.” In the context of the exhibition, the title evokes the idea of delaying judgment, particularly based on assumptions or preconceived notions about contemporary society and artistic expression in Pakistan. It also alludes to the contemporary economic, political, and social tensions—both local and global—from which these artists find their creative inspiration.