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Indian art shows in Israel, Dubai and New York
As India’s rapid economic growth and social transition continues, a strand of subtle contrast and curious complexity - little to do with its politics or its economy - is sprouting. The emergence of multitude of inter-linked issues regarding social inequality, environmental concerns, faulty development, urban-rural schism, gender and class divides makes the scenario a conundrum of extreme opposites.

All these complexities are becoming the drivers for several contemporary Indian artists – prompting them to move away from the self to society. A major group exhibition in Israel testifies this transition. Art lovers there will get a rare opportunity to closely look at the dynamic and diverse, thriving and throbbing art scene of India in an ambitious and diverse presentation of painting, photography, installation, video and sculpture works. One of their characteristics is multiplicity and recurrence of motifs or images densely bound together. This amply echoes the vivacious visual texture and chaotic expanses of the typical megalopolis.

Several talented artists like Jitish Kallat, Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Riyas Komu, Sudarshan Shetty, L.N. Tallur, Ravi Agarwal, Raqs Media Collective, Atul Bhalla, Ranbir Kaleka, Sakshi Gupta, Shilpa Gupta, Rashmi Kaleka, T.V. Santhosh, and Gigi Scaria, among others are going to be featured in a new exhibition, entitled ‘Critical Mass’, at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The works are firmly anchored in the present socio-political realities and how their multiple layers of meaning tend to reflect in varied responses to the rapid transformation: bursting megalopolis and wild countryside, the developing society and the millenary civilization, a rush toward the future and a strong traditional identity.

An introductory note explains: “The notion of matter and material serves as a principle metaphor for the physical and visual experiences of the contemporary dynamic life in India. This overwhelming experience of density, noise, flow, and rich materiality is clearly reflected in the themes, materials, and visual aesthetics of the works featured." They entail a sharp critique of consumerism and globalization, religious and political extremism and an ensuing tussle between tradition and modernity. An elaborate exhibition catalogue will carry elaborate essays on Indian culture and also on the socio-political shifts that are taking place in the sub-continent.

Simultaneously, a major show of Indian art takes place courtesy Aicon Gallery in New York. ‘Through the Ages: South Asian Sculpture and Painting from Antiquity to Modernism’ features exquisite works by late MF Husain, Jehangir Sabavala, FN Souza, SH Raza, Ram Kumar, VS Gaitonde, and Jagdish Swaminathan. Another significant exhibition just hosted at Dubai-based 1x1 Art Gallery, curated by Gayatri Sinha, included some of the top names like Anju Dodiya, Chittrovanu Mazumdar, Mithu Sen, Shibu Natesan, and Jagannath Panda. ‘Terrestial Bodies’ well amplified the diversity and depth of their practice.

Their engagement with a rapidly globalizing India, and how the country locates itself in the growing city, is one of the sub themes. In the process partial stories, memory and the free associations of the mind come into play. They tackle issues of feminism as well as post structural thought, informed by Indian modernity. In their paintings and sculpture, the human body, its parts and its gestures extends into multiple spheres, of aspiration, desire and narratives of the self. In their respective oeuvres, the narratives and readings are multi-layered and complex.

Another prominent artist group, which stands for the dynamism of Indian contemporary art scene, is that of Raqs Media Collective. Their new series ‘Reverse Engineering’ at the new gallery space of Berlin-based Nature Morte refers to the inversion of the financial apparatus at work during the current economic crisis, apparently fueled by a sense of fear. Currently, the euphoria machine's exhaust only produces despair. A curatorial essay explains: “The global crisis has emerged through acquiring and transacting things that are notional rather than real. For some time now, we have been told that the calculus of prosperity depends on the acquisition and transaction of virtual assets, but not that they are in fact tied to very real costs.”

The series is part of their ongoing installation project ‘The Euphoria Machine’ - comprised of two demonstration tables, various drawings, prints and monitors. They together take the form of a laboratory that works as a diagram for a conceptual engine of the desire, fueling capitalism. The artists group puts forward a simple hypothesis: Our desire for joy, satisfaction and love causes economic growth and perpetuates the culture of rampant consumption. The point of departure for this particular project is the existence of the machine and to examine the evidence of it around us, in plans, projections, ads, balance sheets, policy statements and blueprints.

Mention must also be made of the 9th edition of the Diaspora show, entitled ‘Erasing Borders’ by the Indo-American Arts Council. This year, 41 artists present works in a wide array of media that confront socially relevant issues like sexuality, terror, the environment and racial politics. Curated by Vijay Kumar, the works on view often meld Indian and Western ideas about color, form and subject.