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Jitish Kallat, Collindonthus (detail), 2007

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New Art from India
March 5-18, 2008

Fast on the footsteps of the explosive Japanese and Chinese art markets, contemporary Indian art is finally having its day in the sun. With group surveys and solo exhibitions sweeping Asia, Europe, and the US, new Indian art is set to become the next major force in the international art world. In this issue, we discuss sculpture and installation art by Sheela Gowda, Anita Dube, and Subodh Gupta, as well as the work of Riyas Komu and Nalini Malani. We talk to East Village ex-pat Peter Nagy about his New Delhi gallery Nature Morte, and spotlight the skeletal and kinetic sculptures of Sudarshan Shetty. For our media pick, we recommend Horn Please, a colorful catalogue from a recent show at the Kunstmuseum Bern. In our reviews, we highlight video artist Laurel Nakadate's feature-length reflection on Lolita longings in Kansas City and spicy group show Mummy Is Nasty in Berlin.

Low Marks for Broad Museum
(Architect's Newspaper, February 15)
Renzo Piano's new Broad Contemporary Art Museum has been met with a chorus of boos. The Architect's Newspaper called the building, which comprises two Italian travertine-covered structures abutting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a "watered-down" version of Piano's aesthetic, while the New York Times said that it was "remarkably uninspired," and the Wall Street Journal dubbed it a "mess." To make matters worse, BCAM's untitled inaugural show has been derided as "baffling" and seeming "to have suffered from too many cooks." In related stories, a writer has called on Eli Broad to assist Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art, while Piano is set to stir up more controversy by building an addition to Le Corbusier's chapel at Ronchamp.

Honey Space Gets By on Little
(New York Times, February 18)
It's not a squat, nor a space slated for demolition; it's an 800-square-foot art gallery — just one with no windows, no heat, no plumbing, and, most curiously, no rent. New York's Honey Space may be the newest addition to Chelsea's already-packed art neighborhood, but it's a far cry from the posh spaces surrounding it. Artist Thomas Beale founded the gallery, which he has dubbed a "no-profit" enterprise. Visitors to the gallery are encouraged to take the business cards of individual artists if they see a work they like. The building's owner, real-estate developer and broker Alf Naman, says that Beale will be allowed to show work rent-free for at least another year or two.

Saatchi to Open Free Gallery
(Sunday Times, February 17)
Collector Charles Saatchi is going toe-to-toe with the Tate by opening what could be the world's largest private art gallery. The mogul's 50,000-square-foot space in London's Chelsea neighborhood will make its debut with an exhibition of contemporary Chinese art. As with the Tate, entrance to Saatchi's new gallery will be free. "Free entry can only help spread the interest in contemporary art," he said. The sponsorship of New York auction house Phillips de Pury, which recently opened its new London headquarters, ensures that future exhibitions will remain free of charge. Saatchi hopes to attract one million visitors a year.

MoMA Design Show Is "Revolutionary"
(New York Times, February 22)
The Museum of Modern Art is drawing superlatives for its current Design and the Elastic Mind show. Works conflating science and art shift seamlessly between atomic and global scales and include an elaborate website, computer-generated graffiti, a vase designed by Tomáš Gabzdil Libertiny and built by bees, and Million Dollar Blocks Project's Architecture and Justice, which measures the misuse of prison resources. New York Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff said that the result "is the most uplifting show MoMA's architecture and design department has presented since the museum reopened in 2004," concluding, "Thanks to its imaginative breadth, we can begin to dream again."

Guggenheim Foundation director Thomas Krens resigns more »

Inside Beijing's bustling art district more »

A portrait of the artist as a young Muslim-American woman more »

Spotlighting Paul McCarthy's taboo aesthetics more »

What's the architectural look of the moment? more »

Controversial gallerist Pierre Huber barred from Art Basel more »

Collecting architect-designed furniture more »

Chinese gunpowder artist Cai Guo-Qiang interviewed more »

Sir Norman Rosenthal says he was forced out of the Royal Academy more »

Electric Fountain installed in New York's Rockefeller Center more »

Artist carves likeness of Amy Winehouse in frozen wine more »

LA's downtown projects are stalling out more »

Real-estate developer Aby Rosen's impact on the art world more »

Robberies send art insurance soaring more »

London contemporary sale produces European record for Sotheby's more »

A look at former Warhol superstar Jane Holzer's world-class collection more »

Eavesdropping on the Internet with Listening Post more »

Installation artist Chiharu Shiota displays dark obsessions in NYC debut more »

Missing Basquiat painting recovered more »

MIT shows off artistic side with Giant Art Party more »

Painter Dhiraj Choudhury gives Kolkata, India, its first museum more »

The case for pornographic art more »

Artist Gerald Laing rails against art-market inflation more »

Russian art draws back Iron Curtain for New York show more »

Creating video art on cell phones more »

Note: Some online publications require registration to access the articles. If you encounter a registration screen, try a shared username and password from BugMeNot.

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[ Indian Art Now ]


Anita Dube / Thukral and Tagra / Bharti Kher / Subodh Gupta

Over the last decade, contemporary Indian art has gained prominence on the world stage. Artists from Bombay, Delhi, and Bangalore travel the globe to participate in prestigious exhibitions and fairs, while curators and collectors flock to these cities to explore their flourishing artistic communities. Last year, documenta 12 featured Sheela Gowda, a sculptor and installation artist known for her process-oriented art and use of traditional Indian materials. Gowda presented a meditative tableau of burnt incense and ash titled Collateral, as well as And..., a meticulously woven rope installation. Atul Dodiya also showed at documenta; his Antler Anthology incorporates Gujarati poetry in a series of somber watercolors reflecting political violence, both in India and abroad.

The recent Venice Biennale included two Indian artists of note: painters Riyas Komu and Nalini Malani. Simultaneously, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin held a solo exhibition of Malani's signature reverse paintings on Mylar, as well as her seminal five-channel video installation Mother India: Transactions in the Construction of Pain, which explores the abduction and rape of women during the Partition of India. Other female artists who have recently made their mark — despite working since the '60s — are Zarina Hashmi and Nasreen Mohamedi. Their minimalist works of quiet abstraction are currently featured in WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York.

Last year also played host to a series of important survey exhibitions in Europe and the United States. The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh invited ten artists to take up residency at the museum as they installed site-specific works for the two-part exhibition India: New Installations. Anita Dube selected five words beginning with the letter "W" for her large conceptual installation, while Raqs Media Collective presented Time Book, an investigation of memory and history as relating to the decline of Pittsburgh's steel industry. At Switzerland's Kunstmuseum Bern, Horn Please: Narratives in Contemporary Indian Art spanned three decades of work and featured more than 30 artists, making for one of the most comprehensive surveys to date.

Buttressed by their stronger institutional presence, modern and contemporary Indian art have been booming in the commercial sphere. Recent years have seen auction prices jump to astonishing levels, with Indian galleries responding by opening outposts in New York, London, and Berlin, in addition to making regular appearances on the art-fair circuit. Popular favorites among collectors include gleaming stainless-steel installations by art star Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher's bindi-encrusted sculptures and paintings, and the whimsical retro-pop canvases of collaborative duo Thukral and Tagra.

Perhaps the most overt signs that Indian art has truly arrived are two upcoming exhibitions featuring Gupta, Kher, and Jitish Kallat at Frank Cohen Collection's Initial Access space in Wolverhampton, UK, and the Saatchi Gallery in London. The titles alone — Passage to India and The Empire Strikes Back — signal a renaissance of sorts from the subcontinent, heralding much more to come.  - Lisa Varghese

WACK!: Art and the Feminist Revolution is on view at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center through May 12; Subodh Gupta's solo show Still Steal Steel opens at New York's Jack Shainman Gallery on March 13; Passage to India is on view at Initial Access from March 15 to July 12; and The Empire Strikes Back comes to the new Saatchi Gallery in the fall.

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Lisa Ruyter

Taka Ishii Gallery
Now through March 22

  Striking, flat fields of orange and neon green resolve beautifully in A Face in the Crowd, a canvas depicting a woman looking through a medium-format camera. The self-reflexive image is part of Vienna-based painter Lisa Ruyter's solo show at Tokyo's Taka Ishii gallery. Departing from her earlier landscapes to focus on individuals amid crowds, Ruyter takes specific interest in those whose experience is mediated by the camera. In Somewhere in Between, Ruyter captures a crowd of cheering men, with the central figure holding up a cell phone to capture the moment. Though indebted to Andy Warhol's fascination with celebrity, Ruyter inverts Warhol's formula by removing the object of interest and instead foregrounding the reactions of bystanders. Interestingly, Ruyter's complex, hard-edged compositions often obscure the faces of those she studies.  - Paddy Johnson

Laurel Nakadate: Stay the Same Never Change
Kansas City

Grand Arts
Now through March 15

  In New York video artist Laurel Nakadate's feature-length film Stay the Same Never Change, girls play at drowning, call tornado survivors seen on the news to offer their sympathy, and sew life-sized lovers. Commissioned by Kansas City's Grand Arts, Nakadate cast first-time actors to star in her signature vignettes of middle-aged men taunted by angst-ridden, suburban Lolitas who may or may not love them. The eerie central story of a Peeping Tom desperately seeking young victims is echoed by the film's score, performed by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Supplementing the screenings in the main gallery is a side-gallery selection of digital C-print film stills, which create windows into the inner workings of Nakadate's characters. Peering in, one begins to wonder who the voyeur really is.  - Alexandra Chang

Carrie Mae Weems: A Survey
New York

Jack Shainman Gallery
Now through March 8

  New York's Jack Shainman Gallery surveys the 25-year career of Carrie Mae Weems with this show highlighting the artist's conceptual photographs. At the entrance, large-scale black-and-white images from Weems' recent stint at the American Academy in Rome depict a black-robed figure, her back to the camera, visiting historical sites in Italy. The 15 photographs from Weems' renowned Kitchen Table series, created during the US multiculturalism debates of the '90s, capture an African American family's life around the same wooden table, lit with a lone overhead lamp. Weems deconstructs stereotypes about African slaves in later works, such as A Scientific Profile and You Became a Playmate, in which 19th-century images are framed beneath text-etched red glass. Viewed outside of a shrill political context, Weems' photographs finally reveal their subtle, subversive humanism.  - H.G. Masters

Vincent Labaume: Anteclips et Autres Suppôts

Galerie Loevenbruck
Now through March 8

  Vincent Labaume, a self-billed cultural polygraphe, writer, and spoken-word artist, presents variably sized collages and drawings. Mounted in small clusters or snaking in single file along the walls of Paris' edgy Galerie Loevenbruck, Labaume's bent-over, pornographic nudes, consumer products as phalluses, and simplistic scribbling read as the visual diary of a young man enamored with the discovery of image-power and consumerism. Among the artist's many strange juxtapositions, a beheaded man with a sausage gives a thumbs-up, a nude woman with a fork in her rear bathes in a red river of Coca-Cola, and two automobiles idle in the 69 position. While Labaume claims to make art of quasi-biblical significance, a quote that he admires from François Cavanna may be more appropriate: "When you love, you are always 20 years old, but when you masturbate, you are always 12."  - Erin Cowgill

Mummy Is Nasty

Galerie Barbara Thumm
Now through March 8

  The six artists in Mummy Is Nasty, curated by Angelika Richter at Barbara Thumm, challenge the idealized image of the nuclear family, revealing the fraught ambiguities of the parent-child relationship. Visitors are greeted by Kris Vleeschouwer's coin-operated giraffe kiddie ride, which, attached to a gun by a motorized column, intimates violent consequences for both rider and bystander. Punishment, explicit sexual fantasies, and deformation are apparent in Ann Course's row of ten pencil drawings and pair of sculptures. In Berkeley's Island, Guy Ben-Ner films himself playing Robinson Crusoe on a makeshift desert island in his family's kitchen. Throughout, crude and provocative imagery depicting dysfunctional familial hierarchies evinces a brutal honesty, suggesting a place of threat rather than security, behind closed doors.  - Sarah Stephenson

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[ Sudarshan Shetty ]

Sudarshan Shetty

Though renowned in India for his absurdist mechanical sculpture, Sudarshan Shetty remains a relative unknown in the US and Europe. However, that's likely to change as the Indian art scene attracts the same megacollector and curatorial interest that recently propelled China into the art world's limelight. In the 2006 exhibition Love at Bangalore's Gallery SKE, Shetty piqued international attention with several complex installations. Notable among these was a massive T-rex skeleton, cut from stainless steel, with an outsize phallus thrusting towards the rear of a cream-white, vintage convertible.

In 2007, Pittsburgh's Mattress Factory hosted Shetty's Pure. In the multipart installation, a PVC-pipe tree stood in the center of a whitewashed space, while in the corner, a video of traffic was projected onto the top of a stack of china dishes. To the rear, glass vases overflowing with milky fluid filled a large vitrine; the liquid was continuously pumped from the bottom of the case to the top in a looping, regenerative action shared by many of Shetty's kinetic works.

Currently on display at New York's Tilton Gallery, Shetty's first US solo exhibition showcases both his signature mechanical sculptures and several incorporating a new-media component. On the ground floor, a handmade clay pot spins precariously on a bed of wheels mounted to the wall. Nearby are two tall steel cases: in one, a robotic arm dips a man's suit in the same cloudy solution seen in Pure; in the other, a swatch of leather is immersed in blood-red fluid. Upstairs, red Plexiglas encases nine animal skeletons. Tiny whirling cameras situated within their rib cages record abstract images, which are fed to a grid of wall-mounted monitors. Thanks to his morbid and pensive sense of humor, Shetty dodges artistic clichés about mortality; as parts move and liquids circulate, his kinetic sculptures take on lifelike characteristics, and although they're bluntly mechanical, they echo the simple functioning of our own bodies.  - H.G. Masters

Sudarshan Shetty's exhibition at New York's Tilton Gallery continues through March 29. His work is also included in the group show Passage to India, running from March 15 to July 12 at Initial Access outside London.

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[ Peter Nagy ]


Pushpamala N. / Rashid Rana / Anita Dube / Jagannath Panda

A co-founder of avant-garde New York gallery Nature Morte and an active artist in the '80s, Peter Nagy moved to New Delhi in 1993. In 1997, he reopened Nature Morte as an experimental space for new Indian art. In 2003, he expanded the gallery by partnering with Bose Pacia — just in time for the burgeoning of the Indian contemporary art scene. Artkrush editor Paul Laster recently chatted with Nagy about his arrival and work in India.
AK: What first brought you to India?

PN: I first visited India in 1990 as a tourist, for three weeks. I then returned in 1993 and stayed for a year, with an apartment in New Delhi, two one-month artist residencies at art colleges in Baroda and Ahmedabad, and plans to see more of the country with and without friends from New York. After that year, I decided to stay for good, with extended visits back to New York in the summers.

AK: Was it difficult to integrate yourself into the local art world?

PN: Luckily, the art world of India is conducted entirely in English, so it was relatively easy to access, and there were many galleries already in Bombay [renamed Mumbai in 1995] and a few in Delhi.

AK: How has the Indian contemporary art scene evolved since your arrival?

keep reading the interview »

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  Horn Please: Narratives in Contemporary Indian Art
Bernhard Fibicher and Suman Gopinath
Hatje Cantz

Examining the influence of ancient storytelling on contemporary Indian art, Horn Please presents the work of 32 artists from the Kunstmuseum Bern's 2007 exhibition of the same name. The artists are represented with stunning multiple-page spreads, which are complemented by statements, essays, and interviews. A variety of other texts — including co-curator Suman Gopinath's conversation with painter Gulam Mohammed Sheikh about the development of the term "narrative painting" and conceptual artist Anita Dube's radical 1987 manifesto that confronted the Baroda school of artists — makes this book a compelling survey of Indian art from the '80s to the present. In addition to defining an era, Horn Please presents an awe-inspiring mix of work, ranging from Surendran Nair's seductive watercolors of half-man, half-beast beings and Dayanita Singh's photographic meditations on intimacy and departure to Ranbir Kaleka's video installations of symbolic tales projected onto painted canvas.  - Paul Laster

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Cover Art
Jitish Kallat
Collindonthus, 2007
Mixed media
159 x 68 x 60 in./ 404 x 172.7 x 152.3 cm
Courtesy Initial Access, Wolverhampton
© Jitish Kallat
All Rights Reserved

Paul Laster

Deputy Editor
Joel Withrow

News Editor
Greg Zinman

Reviews Editor
H.G. Masters

Contributing Editors
Jennifer Y. Chen
Shana Nys Dambrot
Sarah Kessler
Doug Levy
Andrew Maerkle
Mark Mangan
Bryony Roberts
Marlyne Sahakian
Peter Stepek

Alexandra Chang
Erin Cowgill
Paddy Johnson
Lauren McKee
Sarah Stephenson
Lisa Varghese

Mailer Design
Jessica Bauer-Greene
Mark Barry

Anna S. Altman
Anjuli Ayer
Adda Birnir
Morgan Croney
Andrew Steinmetz
Daphne Yang

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