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December 18th, 2020

Each week, Artful spotlights an art experience or destination that speaks to us right now.

In his loosely autobiographical paintings, Salman Toor explores queer and South Asian identity in scenarios both intimately private (a naked video chat) and uncomfortably public (an interaction with immigration officers). "The act of being perceived by someone can be both liberating—to see an idea of you through someone else—but also really narrowing and debilitating," the artist has said.

Fifteen of Toor's paintings are now at the Whitney, in the artist's first museum solo, "Salman Toor: How Will I Know" (through April 4). The show is laced with art-historical, as well as personal, references; the FaceTiming or selfie-taking nude, for instance, reclines on his bed in a pose that may remind you of Manet's Olympia. Also notable is Toor's handling of different kinds of light, from the bluish glare of a smartphone or laptop to the absinthe-green glow of a festive bar. Don't miss the insightful essay published on the Whitney's website, "The Self as Cipher: Salman Toor's Narrative Paintings," in which curatorial assistant Ambika Trasi connects Toor's paintings to the rise of autofiction by, among others, Rachel Cusk and Maggie Nelson.

Salman Toor, Bedroom Boy, 2019. Oil on panel, 12 x 16 in. Image courtesy the artistSalman Toor, Four Friends, 2019. Oil on panel, 40 × 40 in. (101.6 × 101.6 cm). Collection of Christie Zhou; image courtesy the artist. Salman Toor, The Arrival, 2019. Oil on panel, 18 x 14 in. Image courtesy the artistSalman Toor, Puppy Play Date, 2019. Oil on panel, 40 x 30 in. Image courtesy the artist

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