Zeenat Nagree

  • TO PRESERVE AND PROTEST

    ON FEBRUARY 5, 2018, a half man, half bull riding a black-and-white horse made a grand entrance into the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s premier fine-arts institution. Wearing curved horns attached to a woven rope net that covered his torso, the imposing beast sat on his steed, which was draped with a red caparison, and surveyed the area. Although a strange sight for pedestrians, the bull-man cut a familiar figure for members of the art community, who know him as a recurring character in the work of artist Mahbubur Rahman. Pointedly, he led the charge that evening

  • CANAN

    At the entrance of CANAN’s retrospective exhibition, “Behind Mount Qaf,” we were told that we had reached heaven. Already? Here, in an exhibition divided by floors into sections corresponding to heaven, purgatory, and hell, heaven’s inhabitants turned out to be a menagerie of sequined dragons, glittering snakes, and other stuffed creatures (Animal Kingdom, 2017) and human figures skipping along on a rotating cylinder of rainbow-hued tulle (Heaven, 2017). Amid this abundance, one noticed a small screen showing a video of engorged breasts dripping milk (Fountain, 2000). This was not the river of

  • picks March 28, 2018

    “Four Pillars”

    In the exhibition “Four Pillars,” Hanna Hur, Laurie Kang, Maia Ruth Lee, and Zadie Xa together lead a viewer to reconsider the charged symbols and organic ephemera their works employ. Hur’s pale drawings on silk, such as Nervy, 2017, treat flowers, the sun, the moon, and spiders as variations of a sphere, their rays and tentacles reaching outward. Kang’s darkroom prints take impressions of lotus roots, moths, leaves, and twigs, while Lee’s geometric patterns rendered in steel and arranged in tableaux with bowls of rice, such as Mother’s Knot, 2018, suggest the performance of ritual, the quotidian

  • picks September 06, 2017

    Amitesh Shrivastava

    Animals and humans appear in flashes then dissolve into ambiguous textures in Amitesh Shrivastava’s paintings. Their earthy palette, with highlights of blue and green, and thick brushstrokes leave the forms in a state of suspension between body and landscape. In Translators I, 2017, there is a forested terrain with cliffs, which could also be the furry backs of swiftly moving animals, fleeing or gathering for an attack. These two aspects of the painting seemingly pull in and out of focus, offering us muddled memories or a dream.

    Exhibition didactics reveal that the scenes depict rural India,

  • picks February 05, 2016

    Celia Perrin Sidarous

    Many of the black-and-white and color photographs that constitute Celia Perrin Sidarous’s current solo show, “Les Figures,” document her travels in Greece, Italy, and Norway. Images such as Cyprès, Pompeii (all works cited, 2015) and Palm, Ancient Agora of Athens offer unspectacular views of the titular subjects. On the walls of the Parisian Laundry in Montreal, these photographs provide clues to how Sidarous came to create other images, also on view, that depict assemblages of found objects. Was the piece of coral placed on a mirror in Black Coral a memento from Greece, or the green-gray ovoid

  • diary September 24, 2015

    Golden Gates

    “IT SMELLS like the late ’80s!” dealer Christopher D’Amelio beamed last weekend. Two days ahead of the opening of EXPO Chicago, he was experiencing a delightful déjà vu. We were at the home of collectors Marilyn and Larry Fields, discussing galleries like White Cube that were returning to the fair after a hiatus. Outside, Lake Michigan shimmered. Inside, dealers circled around the Fields’ collection, turn-by-turn seeking audience with the hosts. It was a convivial atmosphere in which to celebrate the city and its signature art-world event. Four years into director Tony Karman’s revamped fair,

  • picks September 14, 2015

    Rodrigo Lara Zendejas

    Rodrigo Lara Zendejas’s modest solo show, “Deportable Aliens,” mourning the forced removal of people of Mexican descent from the US in the aftermath of the Great Depression, shouldn’t be taken only as a history lesson. The artist’s timely critique of this reprehensible operation gains urgency in the context of Donald Trump’s presidential bid. Even if Lara creates fragmentary memorials to the victims of the euphemistically named Mexican Repatriation, we can’t help but think about the targets of such policies today.

    The show features thirty-four white porcelain sculptures arranged on a bare wooden

  • picks February 06, 2015

    V.S. Gaitonde

    There’s mystery surrounding the output of V.S. Gaitonde, perhaps because—up until this succinct exhibition—he has received no comprehensive survey. While not quite a full fledged account, “V.S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life,” presents a nuanced narrative around India’s foremost abstract painter’s life and philosophy, offering a wide selection of his most accomplished abstracts from the 1970s and ’80s.

    Gaitonde preferred to call his work non-objective rather than abstract and was influenced as much by Wassily Kandinsky as scroll painting and Zen Buddhism. In Painting No. 1, 1962,

  • picks May 28, 2014

    Soghra Khurasani

    The key strategy in Soghra Khurasani’s solo debut is repetition. Each of her woodcuts and etchings features blood cells, either soaked in red or leached of color. Hundreds of these ring-shaped motifs populate Khurasani’s compositions—at times appearing like erupting volcanoes or a field of blooming roses—evidently suggesting a human presence in volatile and fecund landscapes.

    “One Day It Will Come Out,” the title of the show, which includes a set of three fifty-six-inch prints of the artist’s rivers of molten lava filled with red blood cells, could be thought of as a foreboding. The placid Silent

  • picks May 22, 2014

    Meera Devidayal

    “A Terrible Beauty,” Meera Devidayal’s first solo exhibition in five years, addresses the afterlives of Mumbai’s defunct textile mills. Though Devidayal relies on the aesthetic and nostalgic allure of ruins in her documentary photographs of the crumbling buildings, she also reimagines their existence through painterly interventions. For instance, the canvases Rose Garden and A Terrible Beauty (all works cited, 2011) offer dreamlike landscapes superimposed over expansive views of massive, roofless factories. Here, wild foliage in the photographs and painted rows of blooming roses and tulips

  • Sudarshan Shetty

    Without providing an explicit cause, Sudarshan Shetty created a dramatic landscape of mourning in his exhibition “every broken moment, piece by piece.” Objects such as a container full of smashed teacups, an urn dangling off a barren branch, or even a crumpled coat left hanging on the wall helped evoke the scene of a tragic aftermath. Even as Shetty advanced his preoccupation with mortality, he also considered transience and regeneration, staging acts and rituals of remembrance. Approaching his familiar subjects through small, quiet gestures instead of the monumental scale on which he has often

  • Atul Dodiya

    Atul Dodiya’s “Experiments with Truth” was the first survey show of a living Indian artist at the National Gallery. Curated by Ranjit Hoskote, the exhibition looked back on three decades of Dodiya’s practice and showcased more than eighty works, including paintings on paper, canvas, laminate boards, and rolling shutters, and assemblages housed in glass cabinets. The show wasn’t expansive enough to be considered a retrospective, particularly because a few significant bodies of work—“Cracks in Mondrian,” 2005, and “Broken Branches,” 2003, to name two—were not represented. Still, “

  • diary February 22, 2014

    Summit of All Things

    I HEARD about the general strike minutes before boarding my flight to Dhaka. Three Indian businessmen at the Delhi airport were discussing the flaws in a batch of T-shirts they’d commissioned to manufacture in Bangladesh and deliberating on their itinerary to avoid the citywide hartal, as they call it in this part of the world, on February 6. Me? I was supposed to attend a dinner party to kick off the second edition of the Dhaka Art Summit, which promised to exclusively present South Asian art through elaborate solo projects, curated exhibitions, gallery booths, performances, film screenings,

  • picks January 15, 2014

    Seher Shah

    Over the past eight years, the Pakistani-born, New York-based artist Seher Shah has taken inspiration from her training in architecture, combining real and imagined buildings with autobiographically resonant motifs in her large, Escheresque drawings. Her photographic collages of the same period have followed a similar logic, blending found images of people and landscapes with digitally introduced grids, shapes, and structures. In her current exhibition in Mumbai, “30 | 60 | 90,” Shah develops these strategies while showcasing more recent preoccupations.

    The titular work is made of thirty drawings,

  • slant December 03, 2013

    Zeenat Nagree

    WITH EACH PASSING YEAR, the calendar of the Indian art world has increasingly arranged itself around the New Delhi–based India Art Fair. This year, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art’s outstanding retrospective of the abstractionist Nasreen Mohamedi’s (1937–1990) unique oeuvre coincided with the fair’s run. “A View to Infinity” (January 31–December 8, 2013) came in the wake of her posthumous international acclaim and exhibitions featuring the artist’s delicate Minimalist drawings from the 1970s and ’80s, which have prompted comparisons to Agnes Martin and Kazimir Malevich, and tight urbanscapes shot

  • picks November 21, 2013

    Amol Patil

    The story of Amol Patil’s family, which inspired his impressive debut solo exhibition, “Social Theatre”, is not entirely unusual. The artist’s deceased father, Kisan Patil, a rural migrant who found employment as a clerk with the municipality of Mumbai, was an amateur actor and a Marathi-language playwright committed to expressing the concerns of the working class. Through this show, the artist memorializes his father’s creative work that has been lost due to a lack of proper documentation.

    Patil has inferred details about his father’s plays from production stills and anecdotes. The black-and-white

  • picks October 31, 2013

    Neha Choksi

    Neha Choksi’s solo exhibition “Iceboat and Sky Fold” comprises two different works that are united by their exploration of transience. The first, a video based on a 2012 performance, takes viewers to a lake where a white-robed, shaved-headed Choksi is seen rowing a boat made entirely of ice. Much of the nearly fourteen-minute Iceboat, 2013, features footage of the artist navigating the water even as the vessel in which she sits is slowly consumed by its surroundings. The second, Sky Fold, 2013, is a series of eight works on paper that use the cyanotype process to create grid-driven studies of

  • picks August 26, 2013

    Sahej Rahal

    The nearly twelve-minute video FORERUNNER (all works cited, 2013), the centerpiece of Sahej Rahal’s solo debut exhibition in India, features a blend of history, myth, and fiction. Viewers encounter a fourteenth-century observatory and hunting lodge in New Delhi, a legend about a sage who disappeared from its premises, and NASA footage of a shuttle launch taken from outer space. All of this appears while an unidentified narrator provides a voice-over about an empire whose cartographers once created a map as large as itself and whose stargazers spent eighteen years staring at the sky to set the