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Aicon Gallery New York is proud to present The Happy Servant \, an exhibition of recent works by Salman Toor. Toor’s paintings are an ec lectic mix of the exhausted categories of old and new\, where inspiration f rom Old Master painting techniques meld seamlessly with imagery from South Asian mass-media and popular culture\, including graphic paintings from loc al Lahore cinema billboards and contemporary advertising from Bollywood and fashion magazines. The exhibition features a group of eleven paintings exp loring the complex and often-uncomfortable relationships between servants a nd masters. Within these works\, Toor transforms signs of poverty and comme rcial products into heroic symbols and absurdly idealized motifs through th e metaphysical qualities of oil paint.

With Toor’s masterfully whimsical way with paint\, these scenes are much more than the literal ama lgamation of their commercial sources. Instead\, they stage their own priva te masquerade\, cloaking the fantasies of contemporary subjects with a vene er of museum-worthy Old Master virtuosity. The works\, however\, are not si mply an exercise in technical skill\, but rather the result of a complicate d personal relationship with Western art history\, by which the artist has re-interpreted his own place in his native social fabric. For Toor\, aspiri ng towards the vivid scenes and technical perfection of the Renaissance and Baroque masters remains both a feasible and contemporary impulse\, capable of yielding unique interpretations of the entrenched tenets of South Asian culture and advertising. In this lens\, Toor’s work is set apart in an age of exhausted irony and innumerable iterations of commercial imagery.

In Girl with Driver\, a salmon-colored Honda Civic becomes as luxur ious as a silk cravat in an Ingres painting. The artist transforms this com mon sight in urban Pakistan – a woman in the backseat with a male driver up front – from its quotidian origins into an allegory of the humdrum of the present and the venerable painting of the past\, simultaneously beautiful a nd grotesque. However\, Toor’s realism is selective\, which can be seen in the fantastical luminosity of the colors and stylized anatomy of the figure s\, while visual clichés - the woman smelling a flower from the car side – provide a running commentary of the absurd social subtexts of such a scene. The composition and typecast figures in this and other works are culled fr om the ubiquitous advertisements for jewelry\, beauty products (‘Fairness C reams’)\, new shopping malls and cell phone providers dominating Pakistan’s urban media landscape.

Both The Rickshaw Driver's Dream and D river and Maid depict fantastic scenes of personal and collective wish-fulf ilment through an impossible combination of visual references and cultural stereotypes\, including the famous group dances of Bollywood musicals and t he painted covers for Mills and Boon romance novels from the 1970s. The Ric kshaw Driver borrows its compostion from Titian's Three Ages of Man (circa 16th century Venice)\, which itself was most likely influenced by Giorgioni ’s themes and motifs of landscapes and nude figures. In Toor’s work\, this familiar scene of idyllic romance is pushed over the edge into Bollywood pa thos by the presence of ever-ready backup dancers\, who have spontaneously broken into their routine in support of the “leading couple.” In this cinem atic trope\, the class differences that typically dominate South Asian soci ety are instantaneously dissolved and cooks\, gardeners\, landlords and dri vers all rejoice in choreographed triumph for a singular imaginary couple. As a result\, it highlights the comedically absurd nature of mass-marketed culture and advertising in modern-day India and Pakistan that often serves to mask a much darker social reality.

Similarly\, poverty osci llates between caricature and reverence in The Happy Servant\, while The Ha ppy Sweeper brushes away in a sentimental Disneyland of daisies and four-le af clovers. In both works\, one senses the inherent isolation of the centra l figure in an otherwise carelessly jubilant gathering or classically-inspi red milieu. Further emphasizing this skewed reality in both works are the s ubjects’ frozen smiles\, which exude a foreboding quality slithering under a skin of frivolity.

In all his works\, Toor deftly presents a subtle melding of the consumeristic and social fantasies perpetuated by t he mass-media of urban India and Pakistan\, along with a Renaissace-era spi rit of light\, technique and idealis. This collaboration presents a unique vision of the complexities and exchanges between South Asian popular cultur e and the art historical traditions of Western idealization. Salman Toor (b . 1983) lives and works between New York and Karachi\, Pakistan. This is hi s first solo exhibition in New York.

DTEND:20130629 DTSTAMP:20140729T211639 DTSTART:20130510 GEO:40.7268368;-73.9929619 LOCATION:AICON GALLERY - New York\,35 Great Jones Street \nNew York\, NY 10 012 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY:The Happy Servant\, Salman Toor UID:274405 END:VEVENT BEGIN:VEVENT DTEND:20130510T200000 DTSTAMP:20140729T211639 DTSTART:20130510T180000 GEO:40.7268368;-73.9929619 LOCATION:AICON GALLERY - New York\,35 Great Jones Street \nNew York\, NY 10 012 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY:The Happy Servant\, Salman Toor UID:274406 END:VEVENT END:VCALENDAR