Critics’ Picks

Bharti Kher, Impossible Triangle, 2012, cement, bolts, electric wire, 88 x 83 x 22”.

Bharti Kher, Impossible Triangle, 2012, cement, bolts, electric wire, 88 x 83 x 22”.

New Delhi

Bharti Kher

The Dhan Mill, 100 Feet Rd Chhatarpur Hills
January 18–February 16, 2013

In Bharti Kher’s latest exhibition, everyday objects are given temperament. A tree trunk seems apathetic as it interrupts a door; a staircase attempts, cholerically, to reach beyond the gallery’s ceiling; and a series of cement planks balance on a chair, yearning, in helpless turmoil, to form a triangle. It is no coincidence that these objects are also portals, devices that might lead their own bodies from one state into another. Yet the impotence of their journeys, due to the illusory nature of their destinations, renders these objects tragically comic. Kher’s solo show comprises three such installations, five sculptures of saris fixed in resin from the series “Portrait from Memory,” and six assemblages made from both round and sperm-shaped bindis that seem to circle in magnetic fields around each other, like iron filings around sulfur. And while each piece swims in its independent conceptual ether, it is also, by virtue of its materials, pulled by its magnetic attraction toward a central place: India.

Impossible Triangle (all works 2012) is a most melancholy instance of Kher’s work’s pivoting between place and the elusion of place. A circular weight holds down the seat of a chair, which is ornately engraved with folk imagery. Meanwhile, three cement strips, bolted to each other at angles, like segments of a folding ruler, appear to balance tangentially on two points of the chair. The imagination might extend the three strips to form a perfect right-angled triangle, but they can never do so in reality, rendering the piece’s geometry, in a sense, bathetically aspirational. As with Impossible Triangle, the titles of Kher’s pieces play a large role in creating dramatic tension: Linguistic Spaghetti, One part of the brain working, and Write me down so you don’t forget are some examples in which language sets a stationary object in motion. Kher’s invisible hand leaves things just slightly tampered with, so that everything exists constantly in potential, suspended between the reality of impossibility and the dream of possibility.