University of Houston to Present Temporary Public Art Project and Artist Talk by Shahzia Sikander

by Jessica Fuentes January 30, 2024

Public Art of the University of Houston System (Public Art UHS), in partnership with Madison Square Park Conservancy, has commissioned a multimedia work by 2006 MacArthur Fellow Shahzia Sikander. 

A photograph of a large gold statue of a female figure surrounded by an object that resembles a hoop skirt.

Shahzia Sikander, “Havah…to breathe, air, life.” Image courtesy of Madison Square Park Conservancy.

The temporary exhibition Havah… to breathe, air, life includes two works: Witness, an 18-foot golden sculpture of a female figure, and Reckoning, a video animation of warrior-like figures in a graceful struggle. Last January, the exhibition debuted in Madison Square Park in New York City, where it was on view through June 4. Also, as part of The Armory Show’s 2023 programming, at midnight every night in September, the four-minute animation Reckoning played across Times Square’s iconic video screens. At UH, the video will be projected adjacent to Witness at the university’s Cullen Family Plaza.

A photograph of Times Square with all of the screens showing the same abstracted image from a video by Shahzia Sikander.

Shahzia Sikander, “Reckoning,” on view in Times Square, 2023.

In a press release, Rachel Mohl, Executive Director and Chief Curator of Public Art UHS, remarked, “Public Art UHS is honored to present Shahzia Sikander’s Havah…to breathe, air, life to University of Houston students and to the broader community. By combining Central and South Asian artistic traditions with contemporary practice, Sikander creates innovative, allegorical forms that explore justice and female representation throughout history. As such, we hope that this pioneering exhibition fosters dialogue, inspires cultural exchange and leaves a lasting impact on all who encounter it.”

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Ms. Sikander has ties to Houston. She served as a fellow of the Glassell School of Art’s Core Residency Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) from 1995 to 1997. In 2020, her large-scale mosaic portrait Mary-Am was installed in Midtown Park. More recently, in 2022, Ms. Sikander’s work was featured in Extraordinary Realities, a solo exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 

A parking map provided by Public Art University of Houston System for an artist talk.

Public Art University of Houston System’s parking map.

Havah… to breathe, air, life will be on view from February 28 through October 31. A public reception and artist talk will take place on Wednesday, February 28, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Learn more and RSVP for the free event via the Public Art UHS website.

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