Zehra Jumabhoy

  • interviews December 20, 2011

    Vivan Sundaram

    For veteran installation artist Vivan Sundaram, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. His latest show, “GAGAWAKA: Making Strange” at Lalit Kala Akademi in Delhi, argues Sundaram’s case with forty-five elaborate “wearable sculptures” made in collaboration with designer Pratima Pandey. “GAGAWAKA” is on view December 21–27.

    THE PHRASE “MAKING STRANGE” is a quote from Bertolt Brecht, which alludes to distanciation and alienation in contemporary times. But I think my title works even if you don’t know that reference: I use ordinary, everyday materials––plastic cups, sanitary napkins, bras––to

  • picks December 19, 2011

    Nathalie Djurberg

    Nathalie Djurberg’s “A World of Glass” consists of two chilly rooms filled with translucent objects arranged on wooden tables. The strangely carved ornaments resemble frozen relics from a fabled land. Looking through them, other, more sinisterly beguiling realms come into view: Four looped videos play on either side of the faux-glass installations (they are actually polyurethane), set to haunting music that is interspersed with tinkling sounds, like the clinking of ice-filled goblets. Her videos are stop-motion animations of morphing clay figures: In Monster (all works cited, 2011), the proverbial

  • Atul Dodiya

    “It’s just like being back in school,” a gallery-goer muttered grumpily, upon entering Gujarati artist Atul Dodiya’s latest, much anticipated solo show, “Bako Exists. Imagine.” The syntax of the title simulated that of an exam question, with the imperative “imagine” standing in for “discuss,” while the gallery, with its set of nine wooden cabinets and what masqueraded as eleven blackboards crammed with chalky English script, also created the impression that we had entered a room in a provincial schoolhouse—much like the one that Dodiya must have attended when growing up in Ghatkopar, a

  • Jitish Kallat

    Visiting the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum during the monsoons provoked a surge of irritation: Like everything else in the city, we grumbled, it seemed this handsome building was also under construction, its gilded columns and archways obscured and the famous statue of a macho-looking Prince Albert unfairly imprisoned by crisscrossing bamboo poles. Moving closer to the marble figure, though, we discovered that his cage contained small protrusions—minute grimacing lions, unblinking owls, and crawling crocodiles pimpled its surface. For once, the scaffolding (actually resin masquerading

  • Tamar Guimarães

    Peeking through deep green foliage, we glimpse a statue of a zaftig female figure and the cobalt-blue waters of a swimming pool near a sprawling glass-fronted building. A bikini-clad woman emerges from the pool and then languorously smokes a cigarette. The statue’s voluptuous curves contrast with the gamine figure of the protagonist, who, with her bobbed hair and deadpan face, could be a 1920s flapper. The scene shifts. Now, navy-blue-uniformed cleaning staff march around, swabbing the floors, stopping to smoke and chat. Sitting in a glass-enclosed kitchen that hums with the sounds of insects

  • “The Cult of Beauty”

    Paintings of velvet-swaddled damsels, with fiery hair and mournful pouts, fraternized with blue-and-white china, japonaiserie costumes, and gilt-edged tomes of illustrated fairy tales in “The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860–1900.” Plush rooms (decorated with projections of peacock feathers and wispy, floral patterns) traced the movement’s various phases. The esoteric quest of a few in the 1860s, it was given a boost by the Grosvenor Gallery’s patronage in the 1870s, exultantly exalted as a lifestyle choice in the 1880s (with the flourishing of the “house beautiful” aesthetic), and

  • picks July 26, 2011

    Richard Long and Giuseppe Penone

    Visiting the grandiose neoclassical building that houses Haunch of Venison is perplexing and terribly satisfying this summer. Director of exhibitions Ben Tufnell has interspersed Richard Long’s solo exhibition “Human Nature” with Giuseppe Penone’s untitled exhibition. Their aesthetic visions fuse seamlessly. At the entrance, Long’s handprints in white clay materialize on black backgrounds in Untitled, 2010. They greet us from their dark settings like disconcerting, primitive symbols. Correspondingly, in Penone’s bronze sculpture Projection, 2000, a giant fingerprint floats between bare branches,

  • interviews June 22, 2011

    Rina Banerjee

    Rina Banerjee’s iridescent sculptural installations––full of silky fabric, feathers, beads, and tiny, tinkling shells––as well as fragile drawings of birds, beasts, and floating demigods, are about journeys, real and imagined. Her offerings weave their way around ancient Asian artifacts in “Chimeras of India and the West,” her latest exhibition, which is on view at the Musée Guimet in Paris until September 26.

    MY MOTHER TOLD ME that my first name is special because it is not typical in India––it is spelled differently. Hence, I was free to be what I wanted, or so I presumed. I was born in Calcutta,

  • Sheela Gowda

    Stepping into Bangalore-based Sheela Gowda’s first solo show in London, “Therein & Besides,” organized by Iniva’s senior curator, Grant Watson, one had to abandon the pose of the casual bystander. Two installations—Of All People, 2011, and Collateral, 2007/2011—occupied the ground and second floors, respectively. Of All People is architectural bedlam in the prettiest of hues: Cream pillars stand around aimlessly; pale pink windows are placed on walls so that they reveal no outside; cracked turquoise doors hinder rather than facilitate movement; the display is littered with wooden chips

  • “Paris–Delhi–Bombay . . .”

    Accompanied by yet another massive catalogue, here is yet another overview of contemporary Indian art—this time with a French flavor.

    Accompanied by yet another massive catalogue, here is yet another overview of contemporary Indian art—this time with a French flavor. Museum president Alain Seban endeavors to propel Indian art into “dialogue with the contemporary scene in France.” The resulting exhibition of nearly eighty works—two-thirds of which were created specially for the occasion—embraces photography, video, installation, and painting from forty-eight Indian and French artists. Orlan, Sophie Calle, and Camille Henrot comment on “new India,” while Jitish Kallat’s

  • Zarina Hashmi

    What do you do when home is somewhere you will never be? You could bemoan your exile with hilariously depressing fiction à la Salman Rushdie. You could fashion crystal-studded paintings of hybrid beasts (neither fish nor fowl, but always glittering) in the vein of British-Kashmiri Raqib Shaw. Or you could aim for subtlety, as New York–based Zarina Hashmi did in “Recent Works,” her recent solo show of paper works and fragile installations. For all their pretty serenity—paper has been sliced and woven to resemble a cream-hued chatai (mat), or coated with black obsidian to imitate a shimmery

  • diary January 27, 2011

    Summit Kind of Wonderful

    ENCOUNTERING THE SWANKY CROWD gathered at the red-carpeted VIP entrance last Thursday at Pragati Maidan, I guessed that this year’s India Art Summit was going to be an intimidating event. I was wrong. In fact, the building’s severe Soviet-style architecture formed a counterpoint to the hedonist revelry within. Alcohol flowed freely (quite literally: Cocktails were on the house), and celebrities appeared high on art—or each other. Theorist Homi K. Bhabha paraded around with his pal Anish Kapoor, who rubbed sharp-suited shoulders with superstar Indian artists: Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Vivan

  • picks January 14, 2011

    Ranbir Kaleka

    Delhi-based Ranbir Kaleka’s first solo show in Mumbai includes a number of bewitching installations, from older video pieces, like the grainily poetic Man with Cockerel, 2001–2002, to newer ones, such as Cul-De-Sac in Taxila, 2010, in which a white horse magically appears when a man waves a hammer. The whimsicality of the exhibition, “Sweet Unease,” draws upon Kaleka’s childhood in a village in Patiala, Punjab. The recalcitrant rooster seen in Man with Cockerel was inspired by the macho beasts Kaleka witnessed in rural cockfights. In the video, a man holds a struggling cockerel in his arms while

  • picks January 10, 2011

    Max Streicher

    In Ashwamedh, 2010, an installation by Canadian artist Max Streicher, two ice-white inflatable horses jostle for space. Floating just below the ceiling, they hover as if apparitions from a Nordic fairy tale, emerging from whorls of mist and snow. The horses’ translucent nylon hides are bathed in a warm incandescent light so that they glow like fragile paper lanterns that have unaccountably turned frightening: The air currents drifting through the gallery animate the humongous creatures, making them seem to kick and plunge.

    Ashwa means “horse” and medh means “white” in Sanskrit; visitors may

  • picks December 19, 2010

    Ai Weiwei

    “Why?” a girl asked petulantly at Tate Modern, when she was prevented from walking across Ai Weiwei’s vast offering of tiny things: Sunflower Seeds, 2010, an installation comprising one hundred million handcrafted porcelain sunflower-seed husks carpeting the Turbine Hall. Though the installation has been cordoned off for “health and safety” reasons, visitors can still see the gray-black husks from up close––across a barrier.

    Ai is no stranger to brushes with authority and bureaucratic control. He was arrested in Beijing in early April as part of the Chinese government’s crackdown on intellectual

  • Simryn Gill

    In the lemon-colored twilight of a muggy, monsoon-season evening, Simryn Gill’s exhibition “Letters Home” gave rise to unsettling fancies. Mine, 2008, seemed to stir eerily. As the light danced between the work’s misshapen spheres (concocted from banana skins, mangled copper wire, electric cables, and twisted hair bands, among other scrunched-up oddments), they resembled a swirling constellation of dark suns. In the Singapore-born artist’s world, debris is laden with significance. Rampant, 1999, comprises seven black-and-white photographs, in which camphor, laurel, and bamboo plants are dressed

  • picks November 28, 2010

    Nikhil Chopra, Manish Nai, Simryn Gill

    There’s magic in the everyday, theorist Michel de Certeau claimed. Sometimes it’s easy to believe him. Like when a man, attired in the sky-blue shirt and cream plus fours of a Victorian flaneur, silently made his way along the sweaty, crowded streets of Mumbai, pausing at scenic spots (a bridge during a smoky sunset, a park encircled by colonial-era architecture) to give passersby the impression that they had stepped into a “picturesque” nineteenth-century postcard. This was performance artist Nikhil Chopra’s Memory Drawing X—his forty-eight-hour journey across the city in January.

    By contrast,

  • picks September 01, 2010

    Manish Nai

    In his latest exhibition, titled “Extramural,” Mumbai-based artist Manish Nai indulges his taste for grubby surfaces. This show recalls his previous productions, particularly his jute and canvas “paintings,” which in past presentations have hung on the walls like threadbare rush mats. Here, navy and beige square blocks comprising jute thread rank as newcomers to his oeuvre. So, too, there are new silvery works on paper that resemble pockmarked tinfoil––and a gritty site-specific mural. Perhaps to emphasize the curious materials used in their manufacture, all these offerings are called Untitled

  • “The Artful Pose”

    A MELANCHOLY YOUNG WOMAN sits on the steps of a crumbling building, a pile of glistening fruit beside her. The folds of her white robe seem to glow. Do her garments symbolize purity? Is she a representation of the chaste goddess Diana? Instead of a toga, though, the snowy fabric swaddling her looks suspiciously like a sari—draped in the Gujarati style favored by the Parsi community in Mumbai. Shapoor N. Bhedwar’s Fair Fruitseller, ca. 1890—one of the photographs included in the recent exhibition “The Artful Pose: Early Studio Photography in Mumbai, c. 1855–1940,” at the Dr. Bhau Daji

  • Nikhil Chopra

    If you had met Nikhil Chopra at New York’s New Museum, disguised as a 1920s flapper for his Performa 09 piece Yog Raj Chitrakar: Memory Drawing IX, you would not have recognized him in Mumbai. Chopra’s latest performance here, Yog Raj Chitrakar: Memory Drawing X, lasted a strenuous forty-eight hours and afforded no glamorous gender bending. In keeping with his other ventures, Chopra explored the city. But unlike previous works, this one left him much the worse for wear.

    Here, Chopra as “Yog Raj Chitrakar”—dressed in fawn plus fours and equipped with a rucksack stuffed with provisions—set off from