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A window into contemporary Indian thought and art

A major exhibition in the US of contemporary Indian art, presents more than sixty works by many talented Indian contemporary artists. It includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, and new media works.

The exhibition, Edge of Desire, focuses on contemporary Indian art of the past decade, a period marked by enormous socio-political developments that form the context for the works of the more than 30 artists. Their work expresses the diversity of the themes.

Incorporating references to folk and tribal traditions as well as popular culture and sophisticated international contemporary art, the work on view collectively reflects the monumental changes that have swept the country in recent decades.

The artists participating in the exhibition include Nalini Malani, Ranbir Kaleka, Atul Dodiya, and Nataraj Sharma, who have shown widely on the international stage. As a curatorial note mentions: 'Our goal is not to try to create the impression of an 'Indian point of view,' but to provide a window into contemporary Indian thought as reflected by the individual artists.' Chaitanya Sambrani, lecturer, Art Theory Workshop, Australian National University, Canberra, is curator of the show.

The works that form part of the event explore relationships to place and popular culture, conflicts, transformation and the renewal of tradition. "Speaking Stones" is a powerful installation by N.N. Rimzon. A naked figure, possibly a child, squats with his head in his hands, surrounded by three rings of pointed and sharp-edged stones. Each stone rests on a picture depicting some historic conflict or abuse. Vulnerability and alienation are strongly communicated.

Edge of Desire at Montalvo features two works by multimedia and visual artist Nalini Malani, Stains (2000) and Unity in Diversity (2003). Her large-scale video installations with multiple projections use texts that have been generated through the oral tradition.

The Montalvo portion of the exhibition also includes video and multimedia works by Tushar Joag of Mumbai, Sonia Khurana of New Delhi and Amsterdam, and New Delhi-based Raqs Media Collective, comprised of Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta who collaborate on projects that synthesize video, theory, performance, photography and the graphic arts. Their work is an attempt to be present and attentive to the world as they find it and to the histories that preface and prepare their encounters with the world.

Tushar Joag's video installation Phantoms (2002-2004), is a documentary on the politics of hate. The artist who studied at the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai, and the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda, did a residency at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam, from 1998-2000.

Sonia Khurana's video installation Bird (2000) is also included in the exhibition. Khurana studied at the Delhi College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London and has done a residency at Rijksakademie, Amsterdam.

Artist Swarna Chitrakar has created a narrative scroll telling the story of the Hollywood movie Titanic, demonstrating how American popular culture influences traditional expression. Traditionally, the scrolls were used to report news and tell religious stories. Large colorful canvases by Nilima Sheikh hang from the ceiling and combine symbols, figures and abstract pastoral scenes. Rummana Hussain's series of 11 pictures of open mouths, arches, a papaya half and open doors is a fascinating visual exploration of entry.

The exhibition brings together a diverse selection of contemporary works by Indian artists whose works echo the concerns and aspirations that define the modern India. The collection expresses the expansiveness and phenomenal diversity of the country. "Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India" continues at Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga and the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum till September 17, 2006.

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