David Zwirner announces the exhibition opening of the new and recent works of Toba Khedoori at its 537 West 20th Street location in New York. This exhibition follows the artist’s extensive survey held at the Fridericianum in Kassel, Germany, in 2021–2022 and will showcase Khedoori’s major works created since 2019.
Khedoori’s artistic process is a time-consuming fusion of painting and drawing. She crafts intricate, contemplative compositions depicting an array of subjects like facades, plants, grids, windows, and doorways. Her creations give the impression of being frozen in time and space, existing in a liminal state. Executed primarily on vast sheets of waxed paper, her work adopts a neutral language that juxtaposes objecthood and natural forms against figurative or gestural expressivity and narrative forms.
Despite associations with photography due to her focus on fragments, Khedoori’s work possesses unique visual and experiential qualities that resist direct comparison to other media and formats. As artist and writer Julien Bismuth aptly points out, Khedoori’s fragmentary subjects are self-contained yet disconnected, akin to a surviving word from an abandoned language. Her art engages with a distinctive form of abstraction—a process of removal—rather than simply striving for freedom from representational qualities.
The exhibition features works that showcase the same detail, methodical rigour, and dedication that Khedoori has maintained throughout her three-decade-long career. Several pieces incorporate branches, leaves, vines, or palm fronds, strategically grouped to create an interplay between density and sparsity. Khedoori skillfully balances the natural elements with negative space, fostering a perceptual push and pull between figure and ground. These works convey a sense of motion, not through gesturalism, but by highlighting the latent energy within the natural imagery. The degree of detail, scale, and delicacy of Khedoori’s palette ensures nuanced viewing experiences that evolve with proximity to or distance from the artwork.
The exhibition also includes two large-scale geometric grid works—a motif frequently revisited by Khedoori throughout her career. These grids, a fundamental modernist construct intended to eliminate narrative connotations, underscore the inherent interplay between figuration and abstraction in her oeuvre. They challenge the distinction between these two visual modes. The grids stand in subtle contrast to the other works, subtly evoking the antagonism between geometric and biomorphic abstraction in modern art. Khedoori’s precise execution enhances the visual intensity of these grids. In one work, a limited set of blue shades is serially repeated, while the other features individualized grayscale gradients, transforming the static grid form into a dynamic, pulsating ground.
Further enriching the interplay between the organic and the geometric is a small oil-on-canvas painting depicting a fragmentary view of partially collapsed buildings. Based on a photograph of war-torn eastern Ghouta in Syria, Khedoori inverted the tonal values of the source image, drawing attention to the interiors of the buildings. This piece intertwines structure with disorder, invoking the social and political through its legibility. Khedoori explores reality by abstracting or displacing her subjects from it.
Toba Khedoori’s artistic journey has been closely intertwined with David Zwirner, with her first exhibition at the gallery taking place in 1994, a year after the gallery’s opening on Greene Street in New York. This marks her seventh solo exhibition with David Zwirner and her first in New York since 2012.
About Toba Khedoori
Born in 1964 in Sydney, Toba Khedoori earned her MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1994, and she gained recognition with a MacArthur Foundation grant in 2002. In 2019–2020, her works featured prominently in the Resonating Spaces exhibition at Fondation Beyeler in Basel. In 2016, a major solo show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art marked her first museum survey in over a decade, later travelling to Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) in 2017. Khedoori has had solo exhibitions at esteemed institutions worldwide, including Whitechapel Gallery, London; Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC. Her art is housed in prestigious museum collections globally, including The Broad, Los Angeles; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. She has also participated in international group exhibitions such as the 53rd Venice Biennale and the 26th São Paulo Biennial.
Location: September 14–October 21, 2023
Dates: David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, New York