Damnatio memoriae, or “condemnation of memory,” refers to the practice of damning a figure from history, such as the Ancient Egyptian ruler Akhenaten’s destruction or defacement of old gods before the sun god Aten. In “Facing Giants,” a sculpture with the unlikely name Amy (2021) seems to be one such forgotten god. Featuring an etched, scuffed-up face and a torso perfectly divided between a bright green, oxidized copper-like patina and a dark brown cork base, it looks as if left in a still body of water to decompose. Indeed, each of Huma Bhabha’s new paintings and sculptures, on view at Salon 94, showcase idols such as this one in stages of ghoulish disintegration.
Installed in Salon 94’s molded niches or upon freestanding plinths like resurrected gods, Bhabha’s deities are accompanied by wall-based paintings and drawings with confident line-work and tortured faces. The violently hot pink Untitled (2021), for instance, is a furiously layered ink, acrylic, pastel, and collage work depicting a gnomic creature with a large cranium and a heavily scrawled face from which blaze a pair of glaring eyes. Taken altogether, entering Salon 94’s palatial premises to visit “Facing Giants” feels like entering a hall of fallen or forgotten gods, your own mortality humming in your throat.
Huma Bhabha, Number One, 2021. Painted bronze, Overall: 66 1/2 x 20 x 20 inches; Sculpture: 32 3/4 x 12 1/2 x 12 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York. © Huma Bhabha