Meera Menezes

  • Somnath Hore, untitled, date unknown, woodcut on paper, 5 × 7".
    print September 27, 2022

    Somnath Hore

    In the ink-black night, a wizened, weather-beaten man addresses a group of villagers. Men and women huddle around this messiah-like figure, their faces in rapt attention and illuminated by a kerosene lamp. While demonstrating his dexterous handling of chiaroscuro, modernist sculptor and printmaker Somnath Hore (1921–2006) also injects an acute sense of anticipation into this arresting black-and-white woodcut—untitled and undated, like many of the artist’s works. We sense that something is brewing, but what? The print was most likely created to document the meetings planned as part of Bengal’s

  • N. S. Harsha, Emission Test, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 75 × 59".

    N. S. Harsha

    A penitentiary might seem an unlikely place to find inspiration, but that is precisely where N. S. Harsha stumbled the motivation behind his painting Secular Bites, 2021. Row upon row of rats nibble and chew a variety of fabrics, some bearing crosses and swastikas, others resembling national and Formula 1 flags. On a visit to the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney five years ago, the artist discovered that even the rats’ nests had been carefully preserved in an effort to re-create the convicts’ miserable living conditions. He was struck, in particular, by the rats’ indiscriminate choice of material

  • Jayashree Chakravarty, Withstanding, 2021, acrylic, oil, paper, audiotape, seeds, synthetic adhesive, and shell flakes on canvas, 70 × 63 3⁄4".

    Jayashree Chakravarty

    In a scene from Earth as Haven: Under the Canopy of Love, the documentary film that accompanied Jayashree Chakravarty’s 2017 installation at the Musée Guimet in Paris, the artist goes foraging. We have come to associate this practice with celebrity chefs such as Virgilio Martinez and Alex Atala rather than with artists. But Chakravarty doesn’t scout for edible indigenous ingredients. Instead, she picks up fallen flowers, vines, and fresh and dried leaves and incorporates these materials into paper scrolls back in her studio.

    Such organic material is amply evident in Chakravarty’s latest works,

  • Manish Nai, Digits XIII, 2016, digital print, 36 × 62 1⁄2". From the series “Billboard,” 2016.

    Manish Nai

    The passage of time assumes material form in the weathered surfaces we see around us: the crumbling facade of a building, the paint peeling off a wall, the moss that creeps up on paving stones. But it is time’s stealthy marks on metal surfaces that Manish Nai is drawn to, as was apparent in the shades of rust left to linger on the assemblages of corrugated metal sheeting in his recent show “Regenerative Visions.” Such sheets are often hastily pulled together to create temporary shelter or provisional housing, for instance in shanty towns. Nai has frequently encountered them in the slums that

  • Anju Dodiya, Circle of Fog, 2021, ink-jet print mounted on light box, 15 × 11 1⁄2 × 3". From “Erasure.”

    “Erasure”

    “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth,” wrote George Orwell in 1984. The rewriting of history was just one of the many forms of expurgation that artist Susanta Mandal asked viewers to consider in “Erasure,” a group show he curated to examine the role that effacement, both intentional and inadvertent, plays in the creative act of artmaking.

    Erasure generated by the painterly process was on view in Anju Dodiya’s eight ink-jet prints, derived from the manipulation of larger works, mounted on light boxes. In Circle of Fog, 2021, blotches of grayish blue all but obliterate

  • Sohrab Hura, The Lost Head & The Bird, 2016–19, video projection, sound, color, 10 minutes 13 seconds.

    Sohrab Hura

    Images bombarded the retina in quick succession in Sohrab Hura’s furiously fast-paced single-channel video The Lost Head & The Bird, 2016–19. A live performance by Hannes d’Hoine and Sjoerd Bruil, curated and produced by Wendy Marijnissen/Bending the Frame, provided the musical soundtrack and amplified the bewildering mix. Hura orchestrated the frenetic dance of visuals by splicing together found video footage of Bollywood stars and films, guns, beatings, misogyny, mob violence, and right-wing propaganda with his own still photographs, mixing reality and fiction. This lethal cocktail brought

  • N. N. Rimzon, The Round Ocean and the Living Death, 2019–20, fiberglass, granite dust, plywood. Installation view, 2020.

    N. N. Rimzon

    An enigmatic figure sits cross-legged in a meditative pose in the middle of a circle in N. N. Rimzon’s sculpture The Round Ocean and the Living Death, 2019–20, which lent its intriguing title to the artist’s most recent exhibition. The statue’s nose and closed eyes are vermilion, offering a vivid contrast to its grayish body. Seven breasts dangle like overripe fruit above a distended belly, merging spirituality and sexuality in a riveting manner. Is this figure a fertility goddess sitting in her charmed circle, or a hermaphrodite mendicant renouncing the temptations of the world? A similar figure

  • Tama River, Tokyo, 2020. Photo: Du Keke.

    Where we’re at: Beijing, Singapore, Tokyo, Shanghai, New Delhi

    VICTOR WANG

    BEIJING

    BLACK MAOISM was a real thing. Recently I’ve been thinking about what that means in China today.

    Radical histories of Blackness in China are rarely part of mainstream discussions on Afro-Asian solidarity on either side of the Pacific, yet those very legacies explain why Shirley Graham Du Bois is buried in Beijing’s Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, China’s illustrious burial ground for its national heroes.

    I’ve recently found access to these histories through the Department of Xenogenesis, a series of pedagogical dialogues organized on Zoom by the Otolith Group. Kodwo Eshun

  • Sujith SN, Untitled, 2019, watercolor on paper, 41 × 70".

    Sujith SN

    Sujith SN’s monumental watercolor And River without a Bend, 2019—nearly seven feet long—seemed uncannily prescient. It depicts a line of people standing on a narrow jetty with plenty of space between them. Adopting different postures and rendered in profile, they appear strangely disconnected—some lost in contemplation, others staring ahead aimlessly, while still others seem to be waiting for some action to unfold. Accentuating this sense of estrangement is the artist’s dexterous use of lighting, his characters illuminated against the murky gloom of the river beside them. The work recalled an

  • Shambhavi, Purabiya.Easterly, 2019, iron, dimensions variable.

    Shambhavi

    You could almost feel a gentle breeze rippling through Shambhavi’s aptly titled installation Purabiya.Easterly (Easterly.Easterly) (all works 2019). It appeared to tousle the work’s dozen elegantly perched metallic objects, bending and twisting them as it went along. These forms, scattered through the upper floor of the gallery, could masquerade as part of the vegetal world just as blithely as they could claim to belong to the animal kingdom. Were they perhaps the large leaves of some luxuriant plant or possibly the wings of a moth? The flapping ears of an elephant or the petals of some exotic

  • Abir Karmakar, Here everything is fine I, 2019, double-sided painting, oil and gesso on canvas, 107 7⁄8 × 102 3⁄8 × 15 3⁄8".

    Abir Karmakar

    “Here everything is fine,” proclaimed the cheerful title of Abir Karmakar’s recent show. Yet clearly this assurance was not meant to be taken at face value. Lying in wait in the gallery were five works, including three large-scale installations, that conjured the feeling of a topsy-turvy world. Fashioned out of canvas and wooden stretchers, mimicking in some ways the sets in a theater, each of the three big L-shaped structures served to depict the interior of a home of a migrant family in Vadodara, India, where the artist lives. In the floor-to-ceiling oil-on-canvas Here everything is fine II

  • Asim Waqif and Chandrika Grover. All photos: Meera Menezes.
    diary February 10, 2020

    Stayin’ Alive

    “WHEN I EAT, I EAT MY OWN DEATH,” proclaimed a pile of bright green stickers, injecting a gloomy note into what otherwise promised to be a lively opening. However dour, artist Atul Bhalla’s warning was not going to keep me from India International Centre’s famed samosas and a cup of hot tea on a cold winter’s day. Curated by Arshiya Lokhandwala, the site-specific exhibition bore the sanguine title “We Are Still Alive: Strategies in Surviving the Anthropocene.” I spotted the statuesque Shalini Passi, the collector and founder of MASH (My Art Shalini, a digital platform that sponsored the project),