Contradictions and Complexities: Contemporary Art from India

A new, significant show titled ‘Contradictions and Complexities: Contemporary Art from India’ will open simultaneously at d.e.n. contemporary art and Western Project in Culver City. The shows will provide an introduction to the fertile and vibrant contemporary art scene happening in India today. It will include six artists, namely Anita Dube, Mithu Sen, Chitra Ganesh, Shobha Broota, Sheba Chhachhi and Santana Gohain, working in a wide variety of media.

The exhibitions are curated by Patricia Hamilton, former owner of Hamilton Gallery in New York and Peter Nagy. All of the artists skillfully combine imagery and references to traditional Indian culture with more contemporary concerns, negotiating the slippery terrains of identity, globalization and cultural inheritance. Artist Anita Dube has over a period of time evolved an aesthetic language that incorporates everyday objects derived from commercial, craft and vernacular sources. She employs everyday materials, images, and objects in such a way that meanings resonate far beyond local and prosaic associations.

Through her work, she explores a divergent range of subjects, which address a profound concern for loss and regeneration - both autobiographical and societal. Her work is determinedly individualized yet provocatively informed by its cultural context. In many of her creations, Anita Dube has worked on geography as a determinant of an extended cultural identity.

Working around her attention and affiliation to concerns of individual interiority and broad femininity with a touch of eroticism, Mithu Sen deftly draws sexuality from diverse objects - living as well as inanimate. She does so sensitively, displaying a smart sense of political acumen laced with witticism and sarcasm.

The humor in the work, according to her, is meant to invite the viewer to play and interact with the ideas and meanings of 'self'. By engaging with the creation, the viewer is subconsciously applying her caricatures to their own lives. She has stated: "I try to provoke the viewer to question our social values: to question what we do as human beings. I use humor to reveal all the social, emotional, political, and all together fundamental aspects of identity."

On the other hand, artist Sheba Chhachhi combs through piles of photo-images, searching for the ideal image in her mind’s eye. Social niceties notwithstanding, the artist relates powerfully to ‘women on the edges’, pointedly observing that she doesn’t fit particularly into the conventional model herself.

Chitra Ganesh draws from a wide range of source materials including Hindu and Greek myths, legal and activist testimonies, 19th century portraiture and also Bollywood movies. She layers disparate images and incorporates sculptural forms into her large-scale, site-specific drawings, inserting altered imagery into traditional narrative forms, for creating a space where suppressed stories come up to the surface.

She looks to question societal oppositions of compliant/subversive or good/evil by inserting abject imagery into traditional narrative forms for exploring alternate models of female sexuality and power. A re-imagination of myths from the perspective of voices they exclude - juxtaposed with a confrontation of traditional images of female sexuality - her creations reflect a deep commitment to queering traditional narratives and related power differentials.

In her long pursuit of a fulfilling expressive and artistic conception, Shobha Broota has passed through and experienced a lot of changes in her subject, media and style. She has painted various things, including portraits of men and women, more abstracted human forms, the forms of birds, animals and insects as well as the different elements of nature, namely earth, water, air and fire.

Another participating artist Santana Gohain is known for her creative impulse which she lets direct her logic of working. A printmaker turned painter, her creations reveal the influence of these diverse faculties. A process of metamorphosis bridges the apparent gap between the formal and conceptual.

The panel discussion, Indian Art Today, to be held in the third week of June will feature Peter Nagy and Betty Seid, who recently curated the much-applauded ‘New Narratives: Contemporary Art From India’ at the Chicago Cultural Center. The show ‘Contradictions and Complexities: Contemporary Art from India’ will be on view till August 2, 2008.

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