I spent part of this afternoon at the Guggenheim where I was disappointed not to be able to walk the ramps because they were installing a new show in the empty middle air. But they did have an interesting exhibition on the fourth floor by Zarina Hashmi, a New York artist who works primarily on hand-made paper (hence the show title: Paper Like Skin).
I was reprimanded only once for standing too close, which is amazing, because her work demands a literally closer look. It’s a combination of “how did she do that?” with “what is that?”.
She is using sawn pieces of wood to make woodcut prints (not carved wood, just natural pieces of driftwood, or fallen branches). She has done the same with patterns of twigs and reeds.
A large collection of “pin paintings” is presented in which Hashmi has punctured her paper in a predictable regular manner – but the hand of the artist can still be seen. Those are in direct contrast to a thread painting, in which the thread pierces the paper in a mathematical grid, but the tail ends are left to fall randomly in an accidental pattern that is fascinating.
The deliberate allowing of chaos into an artist’s work is a difficult choice and an even more difficult plan to implement. How, after all, to plan for chance? It is a very fine line to walk: where to control and where to let go. It is only when it is working that it looks easy.
Hashmi’s work is quiet but intelligent and thought-provoking, at least for me. I may have started out looking at her work and asking “how” and “what”, but I ended up asking “why”, which is a far more interesting question.