Salman Toor’s sumptuous and insightful figurative paintings depict intimate, quotidian moments in the lives of fictional young, brown, queer men ensconced in contemporary cosmopolitan culture. His work oscillates between heartening and harrowing, seductive and poignant, inviting and eerie.
In many of his paintings, he creates subtly disarming depictions of familiar domestic environments in which often-marginalized bodies flourish in safety and comfort. In other pieces, Toor creates allegorical spaces of waiting, anticipation, and apprehension; border crossings into a world that may or may not be welcoming. Central to his work are the anxieties and the comedy of identity. In creating his figures, he employs and destabilizes specific tropes in order to reflect on the way difference is perceived by the self and by others. As Whitney curators Christopher Lew and Ambika Trasi have noted, Toor’s project is one that examines “vulnerability within contemporary public and private life and the notion of community in the context of queer, diasporic identity.” Furthermore, in depicting the mundane and the memorable moments of his characters’ lives, Toor reveals a deeply relatable existence, ultimately creating an opportunity for empathy through the language of painting.
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 MFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Salman Toor: How Will I Know, the artist’s first institutional solo exhibition, was recently presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2020-2021). Toor’s work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions and projects, including most recently Any Distance Between Us, RISD Museum, Providence, RI; and I will wear you in my heart of heart, FLAG Art Foundation, New York, NY; Art on the Grid: 50 Artists’ Reflections on the Pandemic, organized the Public Art Fund, New York, NY; Relations: Diaspora and Painting, Phi Foundation for Contemporary Art, Montréal, Canada; Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL; You Here?, the Lahore Biennale 2018, Pakistan; and the 2016 Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India. Other recent solo shows include The Pleasure Pavilion: A Series of installations | Salman Toor, Luhring Augustine Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY and I Know a Place at Nature Morte Gallery, New Delhi, India. Toor is the recipient of a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, and his work is in the permanent collections of the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College, New York, NY; M Woods, Beijing, China; the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Tate, London, UK; RISD Museum, Providence, RI; Wake Forest University Art Collection, Winston-Salem, NC; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. An image of Toor’s painting Music Room (2021) is featured on the Hayward Gallery Billboard, London, through Spring 2022.