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Weekday Lounge Exclusive | Far and away

Weekday Lounge Exclusive | Far and away
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First Published: Tue, Aug 12 2008. 12 08 AM IST
Updated: Tue, Aug 12 2008. 12 08 AM IST
This month, Thomas Erben Gallery will occupy Chatterjee + Lal in Mumbai as part of a gallery switch that saw the two galleries agree to take over each other’s spaces for a bit. The concept, though not novel, is new to India, and given its obvious benefits, should be done more often (and, in fact, will be later this year by another Mumbai-based gallery).
Click below to watch the slideshows of the works on display
Thomas Erben, a seasoned German gallerist has spent the last two decades or so in New York, and does have a predominantly international roster that includes more than a couple of South Asian names. However, those looking for the now holy trifecta of Gupta-Dodiya-Kallat will be sorely disappointed. Erben’s tastes are more eclectic and experimental—his most famous Indian name is a queer, graphic artist called Chitra Ganesh who is just beginning to gain traction on the subcontinent. The rest of his line-up includes a smattering of the well established (such as feted American painter Dona Nelson) and the relatively unknown (such as Korean Haeri Yoo, whose vibrant abstract acrylics are some of the strongest works on display).
This is a relief. The works, though not always enticing, are refreshing, novel and unexpected. Erben has curated the show with meticulous thought, pruning it to have, in most cases, no more than one work by each artist on display. With nine artists and a selection of paintings, installations, video and photography, this could not have been easy, and at no point does the show feel cluttered.
Of the non-Indians, Nelson and Yoo are similarly aligned. Both are women, though at different points in their career. Both veer towards heavy abstracts, saturated in colour that explore feminist narrative and identity. Nelson’s thick, aqua green oil is so heavily coated in impasto that it is, despite its apparent banality, difficult to look at head on. A heavy, heaving mash of pigment, the canvas is strangely enough mobile and motionless, weighed down by its layers, but appearing to drip off in slow, torturous movement. Yoo, on the other hand, is young, in her 30s, and newly relocated to New York City. Her canvases are more gentle, layered with opaque swathes of pastel-y colours that will doubtlessly appeal to the Indian market. In fact, Erben had more than a couple of offers of interest from prospective buyers before the show even opened.
Of the South Asians, Erben has been careful to avoid the obvious. Yamini Nayar is an American-born Indian, whose constructed photographs are modern day mock-ups in the miniaturist tradition. Her tiny scenes of rickety old staircases, needles and other odds and ends are delicately crafted and then photographed, resembling stills from a doll house of horror. Investors take note: Nayar’s works will be featured in the upcoming show of Indian art at Saatchi, a doubtless foretelling of her soon-to-escalate importance in India.
Krishna Reddy, a professor at New York University and established printmaker credited with inventing simultaneous colour printing, and Kiran Subbaiah, a Bangalore-based artist who has a menacing looking installation here, are further reflective of little seen facets of Indian art.
What becomes quickly apparent in touring this small show is that technique has not been forsaken for trend. There are none of the obvious references that tag these works as “Indian” and this is proof that the best work from India is not necessarily, well, from India. Prices are reasonable (gallerists here, please take note) and range from a very affordable $1,800 (around Rs75,600) to $12,000.
Thomas Erben Gallery will occupy Chatterjee + Lal Gallery, Colaba, Mumbai till 30 August
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First Published: Tue, Aug 12 2008. 12 08 AM IST