Huma Bhabha

New York Times
October 5, 2007

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Published: October 5, 2007

HUMA BHABHA

ATM Gallery

619B West 27th Street, Chelsea

Through Oct. 13

Salon 94

12 East 94th Street, Manhattan

Salon 94 Freemans

1 Freeman Alley, Lower East Side

Both through Oct. 26

With three shows in different parts of town, Huma Bhabha furthers her distinct, emotionally charged form of sculptural bricolage, but she also spreads herself a bit thin. In size, the displays start with four large color set-up photographs at ATM. These show crude sculptures of feet made from clay, Styrofoam and wire mesh standing on a clayish shoreline like the ruin of an ancient statue.

At Salon 94 Freemans, a new space, Ms. Bhabha’s involvement in ancient Greek, Egyptian, Cypriot and Indian sculpture, and in decay, becomes clearer. A version of the feet sculpture is here; another work suggests a ravaged portrait bust. A third might be a ransacked tomb sculpture or mummy or a decaying body; at one end it morphs into an elephant carcass.

The culmination awaits in the large installation uptown at Salon 94. Here we seem to have happened on the charred remains of an ancient temple, or perhaps a bombed-out house or war-torn terrain viewed from above. Ms. Bhabha again makes ingenious use of materials as she cobbles together two enthroned figures, one with an owl’s head that seem both eggshell fragile and monumentally enduring. But also visible is a less promising ability to evoke the melodramatic humanism of postwar figurative sculptors like Marino Marini, Germaine Richier and Leonard Baskin. While Ms. Bhabha’s previous efforts have sometimes tended in this direction, they have also tended to swat away these analogies. - ROBERTA SMITH