Contemporary Art from India – Gautam Bhatia, Anita Dube, Sheela Gowda, Jitish Kallat, Reena Saini Kallat, Bharti Kher, Sonia Khurana (Works)

Selected Works

Gautam Bhatia, Anita Dube, Sheela Gowda, Jitish Kallat, Reena Saini Kallat, Bharti Kher, Sonia Khurana

Contemporary Art from India
October 29 – December 18, 2004

Contemporary Art from India – Gautam Bhatia, Anita Dube, Sheela Gowda, Jitish Kallat, Reena Saini Kallat, Bharti Kher, Sonia Khurana Press Release

Thomas Erben Gallery is pleased to present the first group exhibition of contemporary Indian art within the context of an international gallery program. This unprecedented show includes painting, video, photography, sculpture, installation, and architecturally-based drawings by leading artists primarily living and working in the sub-continent. India is becoming increasingly of note through issues such as outsourcing, a strongly emerging consumer market, and the potential of becoming a new economic force which might, along with China, dictate the direction of the global economy. Historically, economic clout equates cultural importance and thus is currently propelling Indian culture into the global discourse.

While China has a history of radical socio political change, India’s development is more marked by gradual shift. Unlike contemporary Chinese artists who had to rely on Western audiences and markets to promulgate their work, the Indian art world, to this point, has been primarily self-supported nationally or through Indians living abroad. After gaining independence in 1947, Indian artists met Modernism with skepticism and tried to mitigate its imperia-listic ideological potential by tying it to traditional themes. A similar sensibility persists today as the art community opens itself up to global scrutiny. This attitude of cultural self-aware-ness combined with access to the newly globalized culture has the potential to substantially contri-bute to the contemporary experience. Work by the following artists is on view at the gallery:

Gautam Bhatia, an award-winning architect (Masters of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania, 1977), is author of several books. He currently practices at the Architecture Alliance, New Delhi, and has developed a large body of critical, quirky drawings in which Bhatia explores the spatial, humanist, and aesthetic purpose of architecture. For example, in “Chrysler Leap” a person is depicted in various stages of an arching dive extending from the tip of the Chrysler Building. Included are also several other drawings humorously commenting upon social issues and the ways in which architecture can be both cause and remedy.

Anita Dube contributes a wall drawing of mirrored faces. Their outlines are rendered by pasted glass eyes of varying size which are normally used in Hindu rituals to animate otherwise uninhabited idols. Born in 1958, Dube was initially trained as an art historian and critic. She came to her sculptural practice through her involvement with the Radical Painters and Sculptors Association in Baroda in the 1980’s. Dube’s work has been included in numerous exhibitions such as “How Latitudes Become Form”, Walker Art Center, 2003, or the Havana Biennial, 2000. Her work transforms found materials including human bones, plumbing sup-plies or discarded Styrofoam into sculpture or installation which invoke a humanist critical agenda to address the social through metaphorical means.

Initially trained as a painter, in the aftermath of fundamentalist Hindu violence in 1992, Sheela Gowda (born 1957) turned to sculpture and installation to seek more adequate forms of expression. Displayed is a series of 14 fragmentary paintings, the artist’s first use of the medium for a decade. Appropriating a journalistic snapshot of victims of violence, common in our globally media saturated environment, and deliberately deconstructing it, the artist returns to this invested medium to force a more thoughtful consumption. A second work “Breathe” is representative of Gowda’s interest in art which occoupies the space between painting, drawing sculpture, and installation. While her work was also included in “How Latitudes Become Form” and other important exhibitions, it was last seen in New York in “Traditions/Tensions” at the Asia Society in 1996.

Jitish Kallat (b. 1974) is a star in the Bombay art scene whose paintings have found acclaim since they first appeared in the “Monsoon Show”, a group exhibition in 1996 at the Jehangir Art Gallery. He has had several solo exhibitions and his work has been included in survey shows such as “Zoom! Art in Contemporary India”, Culturgest, Lisbon, “SubTerrain” Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (both 2004), and “Century City”, Tate Modern, London, 2001. In his mixed media paintings Kallat utilizes the aesthetics of distorted television reception and collage to evoke the sinister social ambiguities of the modern urban environment as can be experienced in Bombay.

Balancing between installative projects dealing primarily with community concerns and painting, Reena Saini Kallat (b. 1973) emerged as part of the same group of artists as did her husband, Jitish. She has also appeared in important international exhibitions of a similar nature. We are exhibiting “Sleeping River – Inhale”, 2002, a painting from a series which functions as a conversation between the visualities of fate and faith. A sourced soft-core porn image of a reclining nude presented as an epic figure is juxtaposed with the sacred icon of the Cosmic Woman. Red vines with small symbolic offerings of body parts stream from the woman’s wounded vagina, visually as well as thematically uniting both spheres.

At the core of Bharti Kher’s (b. 1969) work is her experience as a member of the Indian diaspora who moved to New Delhi in 1993 where she has been living and working since. Schooled in her hometown of London in the late 1980s, her artistic strategies are heavily informed by the YBA sensibility. Wry and witty in spirit, and unusually direct within the Indian cultural context her work is grounded in her uneasiness about her own dualities regarding issues like gender, identity and race. In three digital photographs from the “Hybrids” series she fashions women, children and everyday household objects with animal features. In addition to alluding to Western and Hindu mythology, she also creates a pointed feminist commentary. “Hungry Dogs Eat Dirty Pudding” at Nature Morte, New Delhi, and currently “quasi-, mim-, ne-, near-, semi-, -ish, -like” at GallerySKE, Bangalore, are the most recent additions to a long list of exhibitions both in India as well as internationally.

In “Bird”, a 1999 video by Sonia Khurana (b. 1968), the artist performs with her rotund body in the nude on and around a pedestal gesticulating wildly, mimicking an attempt to fly. Comic in its futility and hilariously captured, “Bird” is a seminal work within the history of video art in Southeast Asia. Concurrently it is also being projected in exhibitions at the Musee d’Ethnographie, Geneva, and The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth. While she also works to a lesser extent in other media, a great deal of her video work presents her body as a site of contestation while simultaneously exploring its desires, excesses and limitations. Khurana received her education both in India (Delhi College of Art) and abroad (Royal College, London, and Rijksakademie, Amsterdam).

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