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A quick look at major Indian art exhibits and events
‘Índia - Lado a Lado / Arte Contemporânea Indiana’ (India - Side by Side / Indian Contemporary Art) is part of a grand showcase presented by Ministry of Culture and Banco do Brasil in Brazil. It features works by renowned artists like Baiju Parthan, Jitish Kallat, Bharti Kher, Gigi Scaria, Nalini Malani, Sheba Chhachhi, Shilpa Gupta, Pushpamala N., Ravinder Reddy, Reena Kallat, Manjunath Kamath, Surekha, T.V. Santhosh, Vishal K. Dar, PIX Collective, Raqs Media Collective, Thukral & Tagra, Vivan Sundaram, Vivek Vilasini and Riyas Komu, among others.

They together explore the various enchanting facets of Indian culture and way of life. In backdrop of new socio-cultural and financial bridges being built between Brazil and India, from BRIC to Bollywood, this indeed is a new dynamic phase for the two countries. ‘India - Side by Side’ symbolizes this bond binding the two countries that have shared colonial histories from the 16th century onward. The exhibition of contemporary artworks from India explores the relationship between them in modern context and also brings to the fore the complexity as well as diversity of contemporary Indian art through works done in a wide variety of form, style, themes and media, ranging from, painting, sculpture and installation to photography and video.

According to the curators (Pieter Tjabbes and Tereza de Arruda), title of the show denotes the density and dynamics of the country’s fascinating day-to-day life. It has over 1.2 billion people belonging to different ethnic groups, religions and castes and also speak any number of the various official languages. The entire intriguing context is engaged in constant interaction, thus giving rise to a unique social strand extremely complex yet engrossing in all its facets. The diversity and dynamism reflect in the works on view.

Simultaneously, the New York-based Aicon Gallery presents a new group exhibition, entitled ‘Mapmakers: The Evolution of Contemporary Indian Art’, which features works by Jitish Kallat, Bose Krishnamachari, Baiju Parthan, Justin Ponmany, Ravinder Reddy, T. V. Santhosh, and Chintan Upadhyay who together represent the vanguard of contemporary Indian art that burst onto the international scene in the mid-2000s, turning the heads of museums, critics and collectors.

The exhibition showcases the important large-scale canvases through which these artists, among others, redefined Indian Contemporary and set the compass points for a new generation to follow. For example, Jitish Kallat belongs to a new generation of artists and thought makers with no trepidations on the impossibility of today’s originality, with an equal lack of hesitation in accepting the derivation of cultural influences. Known for his brightly colored larger-than-life heads, Ravinder Reddy uses sculpture as a primarily heraldic medium. Drawing from photorealism, chromatic scale, and gradual variation - an undertone of profound disillusionment is rendered in T. V. Santhosh’s paintings. Asserting that artworks are commodities in themselves, Chintan Upadhyay believes his works to be mass-produced, consumerist objects with aesthetical and ideological values infused to their economic value. Bose Krishnamachari focuses on form with conceptual and contextual concerns in mind. Impressive planes of flat color are contrasted with recognizable and realistic persona, which infuse the work with an identifiable sensibility. Elaborating upon the recesses of a personal process, Baiju Parthan’s fascination with transcending mediums is explored in his richly textured works.

Meanwhile, Jagannath Panda’s new series ‘Cults of Serendipity’ marks his debut in the US. The exhibition courtesy San Francisco-based Frey Norris presents works on paper, mixed media sculpture and paintings that incorporate various pastiched and patterned textiles – a sort of layered collage, evoking new cities constructed on ghost cities, as if a whole new civilization superimposed on top of previous ones. His art largely focuses on serendipitous moments coupled with juxtaposed locations. In some ways, it reflects his observations of Gurgaon. In this fast-developing suburb of the capital city of India, new housing structures and air-conditioned shopping malls often overrun the ancient.

Here the ecosystem has little chance to keep pace, much less the networks for electricity and plumbing. Curator and gallerist Peter Nagy mentions that his mix of the mythological and the realistic points to the disoriented nature of Indian identity today, as it hopes to synthesize the traditional and the contemporary, the indigenous and the international, the imaginary and the actual. An accompanying note elaborates: “A pair of figures from antiquity seem modestly bound in love-making among floating foliage in the upper right corner of one of Jagannath Panda’s newest mixed media paintings; the rest of the canvas appears to be a remembrance and excavation of this pair of lovers, depicted as in a Kama Sutra illustration, but also a broad play on scale, toying with archeology and construction sites. In the modernity of the backhoes, there is a personal and cultural exploration of human history, both recorded and earlier. It is a bittersweet vision for the frenetic development of the quintessential Indian metropolis.”

Apart from a series of significant shows, another significant development is Sotheby's offering of exquisite Indian miniature paintings at its sale in London. Among the works leading the section is a wonderful opaque watercolor work heightened with gorgeous gold on paper. Another section is dedicated to Anglo-Indian Art. It comprises Western depictions of the South Asian cultures and rituals. A range of contemporary art featuring in the Contemporary section included works by Jitish Kallat's (Stations of a Pause), Alwar Balasubramaniam’s ‘Gravity’, Sharmila Samant’s ‘Made to Order’, and ‘Lone Women Don't Cry’ by Sonia Khurana.