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International shows of works by contemporary Indian practitioners
Paris-based Galerie Daniel Templon is hosting the first solo in France of the renowned contemporary Indian artist, Atul Dodiya. His works often channel elements of Malevitch, Picabia, Godard, and Munch apart from Bollywood, drawing from popular culture alongside cinematic and literary references. With his propensity for self-reinvention, he has worked in diverse styles, successfully embarking on newer experiments, from his early foray into photo-realism to his rolling shutter works that fetched his international recognition.

Considered one of the most widely followed and established artists of his generation, like his other renowned contemporaries, including Sudarshan Shetty and Subodh Gupta, he looks to build bridges between Indian and Western artistic traditions. He unveils the suite of his latest works - a scintillating series of oils on canvas plus watercolors largely inspired by recent upheavals that took place in Mali. In Timbuktu, the former hub of Malian learning, many scholars are defending their rich cultural heritage courageously against the fundamentalists’ attacks. His series pays homage to these fighting scholars and their unflinching fight for artistic and cultural freedom and the unhindered transmission of memory. Skeletal silhouettes, traces of blood and cracked surfaces evoke the haunting feel of the destruction unleashed in Timbuktu.

The poignant figures tend to contrast with the soothing motifs in Turkish tapestries, Malian fabrics, mosaics, Iranian calligraphy etc. Atul Dodiya celebrates the sunniest features of rich Islamic cultural traditions. Glowing in the light of a mystical cosmic circle (moon, sun, globe, eye, and bowl), we get to see glimpses of the author’s affinity for quotations and amalgams. Each piece carries a text that features the words of French poets Claude Royet Journoud and Philippe Soupault.

Meanwhile, Sudarshan Shetty’s new exhibit, entitled ‘The Pieces Earth Took Away’ takes place at Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna. In the guise of a peculiar public ‘stage’ set for theatrical mourning, an intriguing installation series further extends his ongoing interest in futility and meaninglessness, transience and mortality. He appropriates certain ceremonial objects as well as rituals from their funereal social context, as seen traditionally, to recreate them as contemporary props, mourning a fictional death. The passing away of life here operates as a canny trope to explore the very emptiness of production

On the other hand, several of prominent sculptures and installations by the renowned contemporary Indian artist, Bharti Kher, are on view at London’s Parasol unit. ‘Solarum Series I’ (2007–10) is a 9ft tall fiberglass tree has its branches covered with hundreds of seemingly golden autumnal leaves that are of extreme delicacy. One sees on closer inspection that they are miniature, waxy-looking heads of many fantastical creatures. Also on view is ‘The deaf room’ (2002-2011), her sculpture of dark glass bricks.

Explaining the work, an accompanying note elaborates: “It is seemingly a strictly aesthetic minimalist work, but when one learns the origin of its bricks it begins to reveal its feminine bias and a wealth of symbolism. The barely translucent dark bricks are made from melted glass bangles, those that Indian women traditionally wear in multiples on their wrists. The merest hint of the radiant glow of bangles only becomes apparent when the bricks are exposed to light behind the gestural clay build of the work. It stands for the absence and memory of a woman, in an emptied room, whereas her ‘Warrior with Cloak and Shield’ (2008) is a life-size fiberglass figure of a woman adorned with exaggeratedly huge stag’s antlers. It’s part of a series of hybrid half-human, half-animal figures, which again testifies to her non-abidance mind and unflinching imagination!”

Another prominent female artist of her generation, Zarina Hashmi is known for a vivacious visual vocabulary - minimal albeit rich in associations with her own life apart from the thought-provoking themes of exile and displacement, revolves around the concept of home – be it personal, geographic, familial, national or spiritual. It resonates all through her oeuvre. A retrospective of the renowned printmaker-sculptor courtesy Allegra Pesenti features several famous works by her dating from 1961 until now.

The show curated by Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, takes place at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Entitled ‘Zarina: Paper Like Skin’, it’s the major first retrospective show of this world-famous Indian-born American practitioner. Paper is of core essence and central to her art practice, both as a flexible material with its own history and properties as well as a handy surface to print on. Works in the show incorporate woodcuts and three-dimensional casts done in paper pulp.

Born in Aligarh, in 1937 she has settled in New York for the last three decades. Although primarily a printmaker, the artist is an expert sculptor as well. This is, in part because central to her work process is the activity of carving wood blocks. Several artworks in the loosely chronological exhibit are being showcased for the first time ever. They together reveal the breadth of her vision and also the versatility of her wide-ranging practice. According to Ann Philbin, the Hammer director, it’s one among a series of survey exhibits to focus on important but many under recognized female artists like Alina Szapocznikow and Lee Bontecou. The presentation of Zarina’s artworks also goes to emphasize the institution’s commitment to the collection and study of works on paper.