Salman Toor paintings on view at Honolulu Museum of Art

The Honolulu Museum of Art presents the Pacific region’s debut of rising star Salman Toor (b. 1983, Pakistan) in Salman Toor: No Ordinary Love. On view July 14-October 8, 2023, the exhibition features approximately 40 recent paintings and works on paper in the artist’s unique style of contemporary genre painting.

Weaving together contemporary scenes with historical motifs drawn from European, American and South Asian artistic traditions, Toor’s work tells stories of family life, queer desire and immigrant experience. Toor lives and works in New York City, but grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, where he was born. Working from this perspective, his paintings center Brown, queer figures and reflect on power and sexuality in shifting cultural environments.

“By creating private, deeply comfortable spaces, I hope to give dignity and safety to the boys in my paintings,” Salman Toor explained. “Somehow, this also makes me feel safe and comfortable, solidifying my context in this culture as a queer man from a Muslim cultural background.”

Using a signature palette of rich emerald greens, Toor’s paintings are infused with both melancholy and glamour. These moody depictions amplify small moments of existence, blending vulnerability, desire, violence and celebration in compositions based on Toor’s imagination. Vivid brushstrokes radiate throughout the canvas, creating an atmospheric distance that suggests both intimacy and isolation.

“Toor has a gift for evoking complex narratives and emotions,” Tyler Cann, HoMA’s senior curator of modern and contemporary art, said. “There is real tenderness in his work, but also ambiguity, absurdity and humor. His paintings speak to navigating contemporary social life within different, even conflicting, cultural contexts, and we hope that will resonate with the layered communities of Hawai‘i.”

The exhibition is organized by the Baltimore Museum of Art, and curated by Asma Naeem, Ph.D., the Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director. It is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog that includes essays by Naeem and writer Evan Moffitt, as well as a short story by acclaimed author Hanya Yanagihara, who grew up in Honolulu.

“Toor’s art traces a wide swath of art history to resonate in the present,” wrote Naeem in the catalog’s foreword. “Within these many narrative threads, we are achingly aware of two fundamental and entwined human truths: we all want to see clearly and to be seen clearly.”

The presentation of Salman Toor: No Ordinary Love at the Honolulu Museum of Art forms part of a national tour.

About the Artist

Salman Toor was born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1983 and currently lives and works in New York. He studied painting and drawing at Ohio Wesleyan University and received his Master of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. 

Salman Toor: How Will I Know, the artist’s first institutional solo exhibition, was recently presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2020-21).

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