Zehra Jumabhoy

  • Subodh Gupta, Faith Matters, 2007–2008, sushi conveyor belt, motor, stainless steel and brass utensils, aluminum, copper, 5' 3 3/8“ x 8' 8 1/8” x 15' 1 1/8". Photo: Stefan Altenburger.

    “Subodh Gupta: Spirit Eaters”

    “A focused selection of artworks old and new, ‘Spirit Eaters’ is New Delhi–based Subodh Gupta’s solo debut in Switzerland.”

    A focused selection of artworks old and new, “Spirit Eaters” is New Delhi–based Subodh Gupta’s solo debut in Switzerland. Sculptures, videos, and paintings provide a long-overdue chance to test the aesthetic mettle of India’s most famous “Man of Steel” and to trace the arc of his lauded career. Gupta’s semirural antecedents are often overlooked thanks to the glare cast by his shiny steel installations of kitchen utensils, pots, and pans—as the towering tiffin boxes of Faith Matters, 2007–2008, reminiscent of the soaring skyscrapers of Gurgaon (the posh suburb where

  • Left: Singapore Art Museum director Tan Boon Hui. Right: Xue Liqing, curator of Yellow River Art Centre's Singapore headquarters, with artist and writer Madhvi Subrahmanian. (Except where noted, all photos: Zehra Jumabhoy)
    diary September 24, 2012

    War and Peace

    IT WAS RAINING by the time I arrived in Terminal 1 at Singapore’s Changi Airport. Not an unusual state of affairs for the self-proclaimed Garden City, where afternoon downpours are par for the course. But this “kinetic rain” had a somewhat unexpected quality: It was artificial. Produced by art+com, 608 metal droplets fell gently from the ceiling to the accompaniment of soothing Muzak. Stepping up to the check-in counter, it occurred to me that the silvery, liquidlike baubles offered a perfect metaphor for my experiences of the past few days: Even the apparently natural was actually cleverly

  • Zarina Bhimji, Yellow Patch, 2011, still from a color film in 35 mm transferred to DVD, 29 minutes 
43 seconds.

    Zarina Bhimji

    The title of Zarina Bhimji’s latest film, Yellow Patch, 2011, gives away no secrets, and having watched it, viewers are none the wiser. We know it was shot in India; that Bhimji has been researching it for years; that it is about “the history of trade and migration between India and Africa.” The catalogue tells us so. And yet such explanations don’t dispel our transfixed bafflement as we imbibe its nearly thirty minutes’ worth of footage. We see the old Port Trust offices in Mumbai, with their piles of fraying paperwork and aimlessly whirring fans; gorgeously decaying mansions in Gujarat, with

  • Lee Wen, More China than You, 2012, vinyl stickers, video, velvet curtain, dimensions variable. Installation view.
    picks May 25, 2012

    Lee Wen

    Lee Wen is no coward, though he is famous for being yellow. In his ongoing “Yellow Man” series, the Singaporean performance artist is seen in videos and photographs with canary-yellow poster paint smeared all over his body. The photograph Strange Fruit, 2003, for instance, shows his jaundiced frame on a beach. Since red Chinese lanterns dangle over his face in these works, Lee’s identity is further obscured. The whys and wherefores of his colorful goings-on—tongue-in-cheek riffs on stereotypical readings of Chineseness —are examined in “Lucid Dreams in the Reverie of the Real,” Lee’s current

  • Gyan Panchal, wedhneumi, 2012, palm tree bark, paint, paper, 80 x 19 5/8 x 9 1/2".

    Gyan Panchal

    There are circumstances when sticks and stones may break our bones, as the saying goes. Paris-based Gyan Panchal’s show in Mumbai was not one of them. Here, such sturdy materials appeared curiously fragile. In bndus (all works 2012), the aforementioned “sticks”—actually three white-painted bamboo poles—were perched rather forlornly near a window. In wedhneumi, the bark of a palm tree emerged from a piece of yellowish paper on a wall, its shell-pink contours recalling the ruffled skirts of a soiled petticoat. Panchal’s curious titles, by the way, are gleaned from his study of the

  • Left: Collector Lekha Poddar, founder of the Devi Art Foundation (left). (Except where noted, all photos: Aqdas Tatli) Right: Neha Kirpal, founding director of the India Art Fair (seated), and artists Navin Thomas and Tallur L.N. (Photo courtesy Škoda)
    diary February 10, 2012

    High Art

    I BEGAN my preparatory fieldwork for Delhi’s India Art Fair early this year, sipping watermelon margaritas at Maker Maxity, the massive new I-banker hub in Mumbai. The fair was due to open a few days later, on January 25, but the sprawling “collateral events” had already begun: In this case, it was the launch of Maxity’s “public art project,” sponsored by property magnate Manish Maker. The swanky private preview gathered the great and good of the Mumbai art world: Artists Amar Kanwar (whose melancholic, meditative films were on view) and Reena Saini Kallat were there, as well as the elaborately

  • Outfits from Vivan Sundaram’s “GAGAWAKA: Making Strange,” 2011.
    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

  • View of “A World of Glass,” 2011.
    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

  • View of “Atul Dodiya,” 2011. Left: Thump! Thump!, 2011. Right: Meditation (with open eyes), 2011.

    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

  • View of “Jitish Kallat,” 2011.

    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, Canoas, 2010, still from a 16-mm film transferred to color video, 13 minutes 30 seconds.

    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

  • Napoleon Sarony, Oscar Wilde, 1882, albumen panel print, 12 x 7 1/4". From “The Cult of Beauty.”

    “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