Zorawar Sidhu & Rob Swainston: History is Present

A woodblock print on paper by Zorawar Sidhu and Rob Swainston with many images overlayed including a monument with a person on horseback in the center, an image of a woman in red white and blue holding her cowboy hat up to the sky, and a protest sign that reads "our heritage.".

Zorawar Sidhu and Rob Swainston, July 4, 2021. Multi-color woodblock on paper, 57 1/2 x 45 1/4 inches. Courtesy of the artists and Petzel Gallery. 


April 6, 2024 – July 26, 2024


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In History is Present, Zorawar Sidhu and Rob Swainston’s large scale woodblock prints layer art historical references with contemporary catastrophes: America’s political climate, the continuing aftermath of the pandemic, environmental devastation, racial injustice, and gun violence. They document horrors that we become immune to, and prompt us to reckon with them. New large format works join their series Doomscrolling, 18 montaged moments collected between May 24th, 2020, and January 6th, 2021, carved and printed from plywood that had been used to board up NYC. The phenomena of doomscrolling, a term which has gained popularity since 2020, is the process of taking in massive amounts of negative information while scrolling on your devices, particularly phones. This informational overwhelm can cause panic at the piling on of images and injustices, which can then cause passivity and numbness. “Scrolling” is a non-active process. But printmaking is inherently active, and prints have a long history of use in protest, activism, and anti-authoritarian dissent. By rendering our recent history at a large scale, in layers that draw in references from printmakers such as Albrecht Dürer and Käthe Kollwitz, Sidhu and Swainston draw our attention back to images that we may have forgotten in the scroll. The overlaying of details from images compress our scrolling into one composite object, giving it the time, space, and emotional depth that it deserves. This exhibition will open two days before the 2024 total eclipse, along with works from our permanent collection that explore the vastness, wonder, terror, and possibility of the celestial. 

Artist Bios

Zorawar Sidhu and Rob Swainston are a collaborative art duo exploring the intersection of historical print processes with contemporary technologies. Their projects investigate the complexities of contemporary social issues, drawing from the history of print as the medium par excellence of social movements. They have exhibited together at Petzel Gallery, Five Myles, 601 ArtSpace, and Field Projects Gallery.  

Zorawar Sidhu was born in 1985 in Ludhiana, India and currently lives and works in New York City. With a background in art history and fine arts, his projects recreate art historical artifacts using contemporary technology and historical materials and techniques. He has exhibited projects with galleries and museums nationally, including exhibitions with Marginal Utility, Spring/Break Art Show with Field Projects, Five Myles, the Museum of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Museum of The Town of Vestal, NY. 

Rob Swainston was born in 1970 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania and currently lives and works in New York City. His work is informed by a dual academic background in political science and art. He is an Associate Professor at Purchase College and co-founder and Master Printer for Prints of Darkness. Swainston has been awarded numerous residencies including Skowhegan, Marie Walsh Sharpe, and the Fine Arts Work Center. Solo and group exhibitions include Marginal Utility, David Krut Projects, Bravin Lee Programs, Socrates Sculpture Park, Smack Mellon, Provincetown Art Association and Museum, IPCNY, Canada Gallery, Queens Museum, and the Bronx Museum. 


Curated by Anna Wager, UB Art Galleries Curator of Exhibitions.