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A melange of works in diverse mediums, forms and styles with powerful themes
The Centre Pompidou, one of Europe's leading and most prestigious modern art museums, has launched an ambitious project that throws light on complexities and subtle undercurrents of contemporary Indian society, now more dynamic and creative than ever, still full of contrasts. The idea behind ‘Paris-Delhi–Bombay’ is to create awareness of the Indian art and culture scene to the people of France, and to bind two contrasting streams of thought, in the process. Several French and Indian artists through their works explore profound changes taking place in the dynamic social-scape, to offer a pointed perception of religious beliefs, spirituality, issues of identity (linguistic, sexual, caste-related, national, regional etc), urbanization, heritage, history etc), and domestic concerns.

‘Paris-Delhi–Bombay’ presents a new, exciting image of an emerging India, moving away from the stereotypes, to witness rapid transitions and transformations. Curated by Sophie Duplaix and Fabrice Bousteau, it’s the culmination of thorough research done over four years in order to understand the artistic phenomenon of globalization. According to Centre Pompidou’s director Alain Seban, it made little sense to arrange a retrospective of Indian art because it’s not the past traditions but what the future trends hold that matter more. Close to 100 artworks, including paintings, installations, sculptures and photographs are on view, a large chunk of them commissioned for the show. It doesn’t have a central theme though, and has been set up sans any continuity of styles, sights and materials. Justifying the look and feel of the show, Seban states, “The world no longer really functions thematically but works in a more haphazard way. The exhibit reflects just that.” In a way, it provides a unique visual interpretation of the modern India.

Simultaneously, Bharti Kher’s new solo, entitled ‘Live Your Smell’, takes place at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris. It’s based on the premise of allegory. An accompanying note elaborates: “The artist has used quotidian objects: a staircase, chairs, dressing tables, tea sets that are found in the domestic sphere and endows them with a dysfunctional momentum that eventually ends in their ceremonious shattering. Here these objects suggest remnants of prior acts underlining the idea that something is missing; an imprint perhaps that emphasizes the absence of a person. This fragile precariousness of domestic life, in her new works, turn into a microcosm of the world itself where objects, with their innate function and differences leave traces of and explore the ambiguities that exist within us.”

Mention must also be made of ‘In Transit’ by Mithu Sen at Espace Louis Vuitton, Taipei, curated by Fumio Nanjo. Elaborating on her practice and works on display, a curatorial note states: “Her drawings are intimate, personal, provocative, confrontational, endearing, and engaging. For this exhibition she focuses her attention on the notion of rootlessness. Her work conveys both the apprehension that we may all feel when venturing into the unknown, but at the same time reveal the artist’s inner strength and determined resolve. No one really knows what the future might hold, but Mithu Sen gives us the sense that she for one will meet it full on and on her own terms.”

Delving into her artistic concerns and processes, she recounts, “As a child I travelled a lot as my father would get transferred as part of his job. I never felt I wanted to leave a city behind where I was until then growing up. Eventually the regular migration and exploring a new place became an integral part of my life and so also the memories of the earlier city. We all harbor a child inside us who holds such memories and emotional possessions. I try to relate these memories as flashbacks and how our views are later influenced by them. The images of moving objects, uprooted trees and plants, suitcases and luggage act as metaphors for these journeys and migrations.”

On the other hand, another significant show at Hauser & Wirth (New York) incorporates recent works by Subodh Gupta, who now turns his attention to instruments of measurement - those related to the food & drink that all humans measure through either daily consumption or desperately thwarted hunger – as metaphors in a chimerical visual poem about global appetite. The world-renowned contemporary Indian artist explores the opposing tensions of desire and control. A tailor’s measuring-tape, shirt buttons and a sieve are blown up into large-scale steel sculptures, establishing the rules of a game in which distortion and tricks of medium ambush viewers’ expectations of value. Comprising a group of sculptures, optically incandescent paintings and two slyly illusionist installations, the new work on view further extends his ongoing investigation into the sustaining and even transformational power of everyday objects and activities.

Meanwhile, a traveling photography exhibition of portraits of legendary artist F.N. Souza by Ida Kar is set to be hosted in different cities of India after its launch at Grosvenor Gallery, London. The Armenian-born photographer is credited with having redefined artistic portraiture, blending it with reportage, marked by simplicity of composition and bewildering black & white contrast. She portrayed renowned international artists, writers and scholars with a deeper understanding of how their studios and materials transformed into the centre of their very existence and how their idiosyncratic personalities were deftly woven into the process of discovery. Souza’s portraits belong to 1957 – 1961. The rebellious artist was one of the founders of the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG).

Last but not the least, Twelve Gates Art Gallery in Philadelphia presents 'Organics', a group show of works by Amina Ahmed, Delna Dastur, Ina Kaur, Antonio Puri, Gurpran Rau, and Nitin Mukul. The idea is to highlight the multifariousness of the organic art genre by collating organic works with different inspirations and origins - placed within the realm of the social and personal identity of the South Asian American art. The force behind Antonio Puri’s work is the deconstruction of identifiable social labels to evaluate the idea of one's existence. Gurpran Rau creates surfaces, which evoke weathered walls that reveal underlying histories and denote passage of time. Nitin Mukul contrasts elements of ‘both the terrestrial and urban’ and employs forms that ‘refer to the worlds constituted by both the biological and social’. The recurring elements in Amina Ahmed’s work are geometry, repetition and rhythm whereas the richly saturated colors of artist Delna Dastur’s are inspired by nature. Ina Kaur focuses on identity trapped in the continuum of cross-cultural negotiation.