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Ranbir Kaleka’s ‘Reading Man’
The New York based Bose Pacia presents Ranbir Kaleka’s ‘Reading Man’. The show marks his return to gestalt painting. The celebrated artist has continued a vibrant vocabulary of figurative painting that crosses from stark realism into whimsical, fantastical narrative. His paintings, both on paper and canvas - in oils as well as mixed media - are almost surrealist in their treatment of scenes from day-to-day life. The lines are suggested, rather than sharply traced, and the colors almost deliberately restrained.

Ranbir Kaleka's work has been described as ‘creating a seemingly living tableau on a canvas and screen.’ His new work – as part of the month-long show - continues this project of producing art in an intermediate space between a painting and running visual (video), which is not as much a hybrid as a transmutation.

Viewing his work is like a manipulation of time in which one may both experience the moment of action as well as view it from above. Ranbir Kaleka, born in 1953, spent his formative in Patiala, and studied at the College of Art in Chandigarh (1970-75). He received a Masters Degree in Painting from the Royal College of Art, London (1987). ‘Reading Man’ is the artist’s third solo with Bose Pacia (2005, 07). A curatorial note states: “The artist creates contemporary tableaux of subconscious visions and fanciful dreamscapes by marrying realistic figures and passages with intense coloration and uncanny juxtapositions of objects.”

Underlining his credentials as an artist of international standing, his works have been hosted in many museum exhibitions of Indian contemporary art over the past decade, including the recent ‘Chalo! India’ at the Mori Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2008); ‘India Moderna’ at the Institute of Modern Art, Valencia, Spain (2008); ‘New Narratives’ at the Chicago Cultural Center (2007); ‘HORN PLEASE!’ at the Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland (2007); ‘Urban Manners’ at Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2007); ‘Hungry God: Indian Contemporary Art’ at Busan Museum of Modern Art, South Korea (2006); ‘Art Video Lounge’ at Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami (2006); ‘Edge of Desire’ at Asia Society, NY (2005); ‘iCon: India Contemporary’ at the Venice Biennale (2005); ‘Zoom! Art in Contemporary India’, Lisbon (2004); and ‘subTerrain: Indian Contemporary Art’ at House of World Cultures, Berlin (2003), among others.

In 2007 Ranbir Kaleka was commissioned to create a permanent video installation for Chicago’s new Spertus Museum. His work was included in the Sydney Biennale in 2008, and also formed part of the ‘India: public places, private spaces’ show dedicated to contemporary photography and video art in India at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

His previous video works reflect his fascination with cinema, in which canvases become activated and animated surfaces. In recent years his work has explored notions of space, tactility, and temporality through a captivating combination of video projections onto various surfaces, such as painted canvases. In his new body of works several of the paintings employ large-scale sculptural installation components like window panels, mirrors, found and fabricated objects, and metal armatures.

Bose Pacia also presented ‘Fables from the House of Ibaan: stage –1’, in 2008 that included three installations. The central work of the exhibition depicted a man seated at a table in his home. As the scene unfolded the viewer could get the sense of the passage of time as the central figure's life carried on around him while the protagonist sat contemplatively. As time passed the large jug (both proverbial and literal) of milk was filled and emptied. The work itself could be seen as a suspended entity whose teleological function was one of spacio-temporal relations.

The new large multi-media painting installation is second installment of the series. The works suggest a cinematic undercurrent through the fabrication of absorptive mise-en-scène installations. The largest creation is a multi-canvas installation ‘Reading Man’ from which the show draws its name. Three canvases are stacked - one in front of the other – this creating a three-dimensional painted landscape. Several sculptural components like a clock, table, jacket, and wire figures extend from the canvases. This curious combination of elements suggests a stage set not quite complete. It rather, remains open to further introspection and exploration. The other major works present you with similarly lush narrative scenes that imbue the exhibition space with the intriguing experience of walking through a fairytale.