‘Gateway Bombay’ – a group show of works by eminent Indian artists

'Gateway Bombay', is a significant show in a sense that it brings together artists from India who offer their visual representations of a bustling metro city of India, and the artistic output is being organized by a premier art institution in the US, The Peabody Essex Museum.

'Gateway Bombay' presents the work of artists who are deeply connected to this city and respond to its everyday realities, daunting challenges, and magical allure. A curatorial note mentions:' Mumbai is the country's commercial and financial hub and a leading center of the art world. The largest city in India, its busiest port, home of the world's most productive film industry, and site of the biggest slum in Asia as well as offices of leading multinational corporations. Hundreds of thousands of hopeful migrants arrive each year, most settling in shanties.

'With its teeming population, economy in high gear, and rampant development, Mumbai/Bombay radiates energy and vitality. Collectively the artworks draw us beyond the surface hustle and bustle of a densely peopled city to a reflective encounter with the global metropolis that is soon to become the world's largest.'

The 29 works drawn primarily from The Peabody Essex Museum's Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection of contemporary Indian art are on view at the Herwitz Gallery till December 7, 2008. The artists represented include Bal Chhabda, Atul Dodiya, K. K. Hebbar, M.F. Husain, Bhupen Khakhar, Bose Krishnamachari, Chirodeep Chaudhuri, Nalini Malani, Tyeb Mehta, Gieve Patel, Sudhir Patwardhan, Anil Revri, and Ketaki Sheth.

Late Bhupen Khakhar oil on canvas portrayed a Parsi family ready for a formal group photo. The late artist known for his often-humorous Pop Art'style paintings of ordinary people reinforce the wryness of this portrait.

Atul Dodiya's oil and acrylic on canvas shows a man on an elevated platform garlanding an iconic monument of the nation's greatest freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi. Dodiya painted this work following deadly sectarian riots in the city in 1992'93. Bose Krishnamachari installation 'Ghost/Transmemoir' previously hosted in India comprises 108 ubiquitous lunch boxes suspended from iron rods in the shape of a local train. Short interviews with city folks play on monitors placed in openings cut in them. Earphones carry the dialogues and sounds of the city.

Sudhir Patwardhan's oils on canvas offer multiple perspectives into suburban life. In one of his canvases, a murky stream serves as a central vertical axis dividing a relatively open expanse on the left from a densely built residential neighborhood at right. The construction straddling the foreground offers another angle through which to view the scene. Another one depicts a despairing worker of a now defunct textile industry, just dismissed from his job, moving toward the viewer from the mill, a gray building located to the right of the bridge. The worker's isolation links him to the leper at left, while both are separated from the camaraderie of the two men crossing the bridge.

An oil on canvas that artist Gieve Patel painted during a time when he focused on representing the realms of ordinary people is on view. One interesting work - oil on canvas - done by late K. K. Hebbar conveys the human density of construction work and the intensive labor of which the city is built. Bal Chhabda's paintings on view have emerged from his experiences that distill and rework visual impressions from the visual encounter at a once popular restaurant. One of the Ketaki Sheth compositions capture a young worker in an auto salvage shop is seen in a moment of self-absorbed reverie whereas a landscape by Anil Revri revolves around memories of Bombay past and present merged in this evocation of the polluted landscape around Mahim Creek.

The works, on view at The Peabody Essex Museum till, collectively portray a revealing picture of people and the places they shape and inhabit in context of the city of Mumbai.

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