Artist Huma Bhabha (born 1962, Karachi, Pakistan) has been selected to create a site-specific installation for The Met's Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. The Roof Garden Commission: Huma Bhabha, We Come in Peace will be on view from April 17 through October 28, 2018 (weather permitting).
The title of the installation, We Come in Peace, has its origins in the classic American science-fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), a tale of first contact between humans and aliens. The installation's two sculptures—the 12-foot-tall five-headed intersex figure We Come in Peace, and the 18-foot-long prostrate Benaam (an Urdu word that translates as "without name")—are carefully oriented toward each other as if they have just landed on The Met's Cantor Roof. Bhabha has choreographed a dramatic mise-en-scène, inspiring visitors to envision tales of foreign visitation.
Initially handcrafted to scale by the artist from ephemeral materials, such as cork, Styrofoam, air-dried clay, and plastic, the sculptures were then cast in bronze, allowing Bhabha to fashion not simply monumental forms but monuments. The works retain the look of their original materials but now exude an endurance, their distressed, afflicted bodies speaking the common language of life's precariousness as well as of survival.
Throughout her practice, Bhabha has proposed the body as a site of exchange. The figures here communicate notions of pain and survival: they can be read as both aching and defiant, in agony and unassailable, subjugated and valiant. Bhabha's work has always had a political exigency and shown a responsiveness to social concerns; We Come in Peace is no exception. It is also a project in dialogue with art history, reflecting Bhabha's interest in art across time and geography. In these sculptures, one might find references to works that range from ancient African and Indian sculpture to modern creations.
The Roof Garden Commission: Huma Bhabha, We Come in Peace was conceived by the artist in consultation with Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Shanay Jhaveri, Assistant Curator of South Asian Art, both of The Met's Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. It is the sixth in a series of site-specific commissions for the outdoor space.
The Roof Garden Commission is accompanied by a publication, which features an interview with the artist by Sheena Wagstaff and essays by Shanay Jhaveri and Ed Halter, founder and director of Light Industry. It is published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press ($9.95) and is the sixth in a series of books that document The Met's annual Cantor Roof Garden commissions.
Related programs include a conversation between Huma Bhabha and Ranjani Shettar with Sheena Wagstaff and Shanay Jhaveri on June 21 at 6:00 pm, and an "Artists on Artworks" program with Bhabha on July 13 at 6:30 pm.
The Roof Garden Commission: Huma Bhabha, We Come in Peace will be featured on The Met website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter via the hashtag #CantorRoof.
Born in 1962 in Karachi, Pakistan, Huma Bhabha lives and works in Poughkeepsie, New York. Her work addresses themes of colonialism, war, displacement, and memories of place. Using found materials and the detritus of everyday life, she creates haunting human figures that hover between abstraction and figuration, monumentality and entropy.
Bhabha's work has been the subject of numerous national and international exhibitions, including Unnatural Histories at MoMA P.S.1, New York; All the World's Futures at the 56th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, Italy; Players at the Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy; Huma Bhabha at the Aspen Art Museum, Colorado; Stranger at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Ohio; A Different Kind of Order: The ICP Triennial at the International Center of Photography, New York; Land Marks at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Intense Proximity at La Triennale, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France; 2010 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the 7th Gwangju Biennale, Korea. In 2008, she received The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum Emerging Artist Award, and in 2013 she was awarded the Berlin Prize, Guna S. Mundheim Fellowship, the American Academy in Berlin.