Aicon Gallery is pleased to present Salman Toor’s third New York solo exhibition, Time After Time. Toor lives and works between his native Lahore and New York City. His painting vary in style and scale, often playing with autobiography, art history, and queer identity. Constructed from memory and fantasy, these new paintings are a hedonistic mix of leisure, sensuality and painterly panache. Cozy little narratives assert the protagonist’s identity, which oscillates between queer and Muslim stereotypes. Toor’s young men are conjured as amalgams of art historical references with an exaggerated, long-nosed figuration peculiar to the artist.
Multiethnic couples embrace in boy bars and share cigarettes as a wine glass gleams in the whirl and rush of urban nightlife. Imaginary companions dance in cramped apartments full of books and music. There are reunions, chance meetings, tearful consolations, and quiet reveries in the glow of a smartphone. Painted with simplicity and tenderness, these pictures highlight the relationships that seem to define the queer experience. Causal liberties seem hard-won and vulnerable, in Toor’s linear, agitated brush strokes.
Allegories of family love and the threat of a conservative patriarchy loom in these vignettes of freedom. They reveal the disquiet and the joy that comes from living between cultures. There are scenes of romance, as in The Palm Reader in which a dark young man plays the lusty and sketchy fortune teller to a pale blond boy in a bar, recalling Orientalist imagery. Man with Tote Bag and Laptop hints at the dissonance and disquiet of crossing national and moral boundaries in an anxious, post 9/11 world in which ethnic and religious identity supersedes a culturally diverse one. This diversity glimmers in Floating Bookshelf II and III. A loosely painted collection of faded family photos, paintings and books — The Spirit of Indian Painting, Modern Poetry of Pakistan, The Diaries of Susan Sontag, as well as monographs on Rubens and Goya — are stacked beside a charging iPhone.
In the large and refined composition Eleventh Street, Toor evokes the ghosts of Baroque and Rococo masters. Potential lovers exchange a glance while the Friday prayer progresses at an urban mosque behind them. Between these two seemingly incongruent worlds of religion and sexual emancipation is the colourful middle ground of literature and music created by two beatnik American booksellers familiar to downtown sidewalks. Two men dressed for prayer look over their shoulder at a pretty girl who is reading a book. Toor’s art challenges and celebrates both his adopted culture of the United States and his native Pakistani culture, progressively undermining their supposed incompatibility.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1983, Salman Toor received his MFA from Pratt Institute in 2009. Toor has had several solo exhibitions in the U.S. and Pakistan and has participated in significant group shows such as the Kochi Biennale in 2016, and the inaugural Lahore Biennale in 2018. His work has been featured in publications such as ArtAsiaPacific, Hyperallergic, Artsy, and Wall Street International.