May 23, 2024 – June 29, 2024
AICON Gallery, 35 Great Jones Street New York, NY 10012

Zarina, Refugee Camp, 2015, Collage with Indian handmade paper on printed black BFK light paper, 26 x 19 in

Zarina, Refugee Camp, 2015, Collage with Indian handmade paper on printed black BFK light paper, 26 x 19 in

Aicon is pleased to announce Delicately Does It, a group exhibition that focuses on the work of several artists who have spent their careers mastering their craft in impossibly complicated and intricate ways, primarily on and with paper. For these artists, paper can be both surface and medium, fragile, and impervious. Through precise actions such as cutting, folding, etching, and dying, the artists manipulate the materiality of paper and demonstrate its various properties while allowing their labor-intensive language to develop. Oftentimes meditatively repetitive and meticulous, these works thrum with ritualism and geometry. Delicately Does It is about the spontaneous artistic processes and journeys artists embark on without knowing where they might conclude. The more you look at these works, the more you are pulled into their intimate worlds of wonder and curiosity.

Delicately Does It brings together artists from multiple generations starting with Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (1922-2019) and Zarina Hashmi (1937-2020). Farmanfarmaian’s practice included traditional reverse glass painting, mirror mosaics, sculpture, and installation. For this exhibition, Aicon presents a selection of her kaleidoscopic drawings in combinations of colored pencil, felt-tip pen, glitter, and marker on paper that fuse the principles of Islamic geometry with the minimalist shapes of Western abstraction. Opposite Farmanfarmaian’s vibrant color palette are the works of Zarina Hashmi. Artworks like Refugee Camp (2015) highlight Zarina’s use of texture and materiality through collage in a minimalist composition to encapsulate complex themes of displacement, home, and memory. Both artists were honored with solo exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum later in life, with Zarina in 2013 followed by Farmanfarmaian two years later.

The visual legacy of Farmanfarmaian and Zarina is readily apparent in the works of emerging artists Safdar Ali Qureshi (b. 1980) and Yasi Alipour (b. 1989). Although a skilled miniature painter and teacher of the tradition, Qureshi’s paintings have become increasingly abstract. Using short, repetitive brush strokes and unblended colors, the artist overlaps multiple layers to convey the infinite while simultaneously reflecting the more immediate internal havoc wreaked by devastating floods in his home province. For Yasi Alipour, the Ghulam Mohammad, Untitled, 2023, Iranian ink and paper collage on wasli paper, 4 x 6 in principles of mathematics come together with Islamic geometry to build the foundation of her paper-folding practice. Alipour’s tactile works—created using a variety of paper types and photosensitive dyes—evoke landscapes, constellations, and instruments of meditation, to name but a few that are on view in the exhibition.

While minimalism and abstraction thematically connect many of the artworks in Delicately Does It, complex surfaces featuring text link artists Youdhisthir Maharjan (b. 1984), Ghulam Mohammad (b.1979), and IMAGINE (aka. Sneha Shrestha, b. 1987). Maharjan recycles books and other found objects to create works that exist independently from their original context. He painstakingly cuts out letters from books, rips and weaves together strands of paper, and embraces autopoietic print processes, resulting in objects that are identifiable yet alien. Mohammad also utilizes individually cut letters, specifically Urdu letters, which he then pastes into delicate collages on Wasli paper. The illegibility of letters in Mohammad’s works reflects his experience struggling to acquaint himself with Urdu after growing up in Baluchistan, where combinations and pronunciations of basic letters are so different. Using ink rather than cutouts, IMAGINE’s Home, Too series features a single letter from the Nepali alphabet painted four times in an overlapping square. The artist paints the letters without measurements or guidelines, embracing a meditative process impacted by the regulation of her breath to create even and symmetrical images.

Rounding out the exhibition are the fine line drawings of Waqas Khan (b. 1982) and Sathi Guin (b. 1979). Recognizable by his repetitive markmaking featuring dashes and dots, Khan’s cell-like images draw the viewer in close, even when on a large scale, to create a phenomenological experience. The organic structures he builds over the expanse of his Untitled (2024) work on canvas bring to mind something as vast as the cosmos and as intimate as a fingerprint. A similar organic quality is found in the works of Sathi Guin. With no definite start or end point, Guin’s ambiguous drawings are reflections of her dreams and emotions. The artist is drawn to watercolor and paper for their inherently vulnerable qualities. Great care must be taken when using these materials to preserve their integrity and avoid immutable errors.

The nine artists featured in Delicately Does It showcase myriad techniques and strategies for creating intricate artworks on and with paper, occasionally bringing in canvas when scale dictates a more structured surface. The exhibition is on display in the second-floor galleries from May 23 through June 29.