The Artists of 2021: Bani Abidi
By HG Masters
Using irony and humor, Bani Abidi takes aim at the self-seriousness of patriarchal tyrants and the flimsy pageantry of militaristic nationalism. In the newly created photo installation The Reassuring Hand Gestures of Big Men, Small Men, All Men (2021), Abidi catalogues the gestures and dispositions of various “masculinist” leaders who attempt to project power through their charisma and body language. The work was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in Abidi’s midcareer survey exhibition “The Man Who Talked Until He Disappeared” (9/4–6/5/22), curated by Natasha Ginwala and Hoor Al Qasimi, who had also overseen Abidi’s 2019 surveys at the Gropius Bau in Berlin and the Sharjah Art Foundation, respectively. In the same Chicago exhibition, Abidi expanded her ongoing series of watercolor portraits The Man Who Talked Until He Disappeared (2019– ), which depicts men in Pakistan who have either been disappeared by the state or are in danger of it—primarily journalists, political activists, or other dissidents. More tongue-in-cheek in tone, Death at a 30 Degree Angle (2012) is a fictional story about a small-time politician who commissioned a monumental statue of himself from an actual Indian sculptor who works on sculptures for politicians or national figures.