Salman Toor: No Ordinary Love brings together more than 45 new and recent paintings and works on paper that weave together motifs found in historical paintings with 21st-century moments to create new worlds based in the artist’s imagination. Organized by the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), the exhibition explores themes of desire, family, and tradition, and captures the ways in which Toor upends art historical traditions to center Brown, queer figures and investigate outdated concepts of power and sexuality. Throughout his work, he imbues sensual pleasure with satire and mines his deep knowledge of the European, American, and South Asian painterly traditions.
The New York-based artist draws on his memories of growing up in Pakistan to conjure compositions that seem to reckon with, if not reconcile, South Asian culture and the security of familial bonds. Toor’s artistic practice explores his hopes and anxieties about the queer experience in both his ancestral and adopted countries. Landscapes become recurring spaces of danger, escape, and queer love. Artistic traditions, such as portraiture and drawing; social histories, such as masculinity and sexuality; and cultural histories, such as the brutal legacies of imperialism embedded within many museum collections, are also reconsidered.
The Eurocentric artistic canon is humorously reconsidered, and social histories take new shape through works like Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe and Flag (2022). Inspired by Sir Anthony van Dyck’s Rinaldo and Armida (1629) from the BMA’s own collection of European works, the painting details a young man with a macabre and fascinating pile of items including a feather boa, a clown mask, a leg wearing a high heel and a vitrine encasing a brown head. It is a scene that distills slivers of the artist’s queer identity—with the title of the work even reclaiming a slur—while calling out the role of museums in the colonial plunder of South Asia.
A salon-style presentation of 20 works on paper and a selection of the artist’s sketchbooks provide additional insights into the artist’s oeuvre.
The exhibition is curated by Asma Naeem, the BMA’s Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Chief Curator and Interim Co-Director, and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, including essays by Naeem as well as writers Evan Moffitt and Hanya Yanagihara that will be available in September.
Following its presentation in Baltimore, Salman Toor: No Ordinary Love will travel to the Tampa Museum of Art in Florida, Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawai’i, and Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Image: Salman Toor, Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe and Flag, 2021. © Salman Toor. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photo: Farzad Owrang