The work of Zarina is defined by her adherence to the personal and the essential. An early interest in architecture and mathematics is reflected in her use of geometry and her emphasis on structural purity. While her work tends towards minimalism, its starkness is tempered by its texture and materiality. Her art poignantly chronicles her life and recurring themes include home, displacement, borders, journey and memory.
Best known as a printmaker, Zarina prefers to carve instead of draw the line, to gouge the surface rather than build it up. She has used various mediums of printmaking including intaglio, woodblocks, lithography, and silkscreen, and she frequently creates series of several prints in order to reference a multiplicity of locales or concepts. For example, her seminal work Home is a Foreign Place consists of 36 woodblock prints, each of which represents a particular memory of home. Each subject is inscribed in Urdu beneath the print to signify the vital role language plays in her work, as well as to pay homage to a mother tongue in decline. Other works such as These Cities Blotted into the Wilderness (Adrienne Rich after Ghalib), Countries, and Dividing Line explore geographical borders and contested terrains, particularly those areas which are scarred from political conflict. She has long been interested in the material possibilities of paper and in addition to printing on it, she has created works which entail puncturing, scratching, weaving and sewing on paper. Zarina also creates sculpture using a variety of media such as bronze, aluminum, steel, wood, tin, and paper pulp.
Zarina (b. 1937) was born in Aligarh, India and currently lives and works in New York. After receiving a degree in mathematics, she went on to study woodblock printing in Bangkok and Tokyo, and intaglio with S. W. Hayter at Atelier-17 in Paris. She has exhibited at numerous venues internationally including representing India at the 2011 Venice Biennale, and her retrospective exhibition entitled Zarina: Paper Like Skin was presented at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles in 2012, and at the Guggenheim, New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Tate Modern, London; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Menil Collection, Houston.