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Salman Toor | Resident Alien

Written by Bansie Vasvani 


Salman Toor’s insular scenes of life in Pakistan have vanished. Instead ghosts, hobos, poets, exiles, counts, ascetics, rabble-rousers, vagrants, and partygoers inhabit a no-man’sland where time stands still. In Toor’s second solo exhibition at New York’s Aicon Gallery, Resident Alien, an artist possessed by a spirit to experiment and plunge into a new world has emerged. Beginning with a series of small paintings, including “Newscaster IV” (2015) and “Jetsetter” (2015), Toor’s characters develop an otherworldliness that does away with the specifics of place and perspective. With just the right combination of humor and the grotesque, the newscaster’s skinny arms and contorted face anticipate the jetsetter’s cohorts at an airport security checkpoint that recalls the lyrics of the Eagles song “Hotel California”: “And I was thinking to myself / This could be Heaven or this could be Hell.” A blond boy in oversize blue rubber gloves, a green-haired man pointing to some sort of symbol in a book, and a skull-capped bystander foreshadow the panoply of surreal, spectral figures populating Toor’s larger paintings. I