Critics’ Picks

Sameer Reddy, Untitled (Lakshmi), 2010, archival digital print, 12 x 9 1/2".

Sameer Reddy, Untitled (Lakshmi), 2010, archival digital print, 12 x 9 1/2".


Sameer Reddy

Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)
4454 Woodward Avenue
February 7–May 4, 2014

With “Tabernacle: A Metamorphic Healing Module,” Sameer Reddy invites visitors to suspend their disbelief and try, just try, his playful form of personal healing. Exhibited in a gallery adjacent to the museum’s James Lee Byars retrospective, “I Cancel All My Works at Death,” Reddy’s show extends Byars’s spirtualism but eschews the morbidity and heft of his work, while combining central iconography from various faiths with fragments from pop songs and pop culture.

The sculpture Light as a Feather, 2012, for example, shows a balance scale with a bottle of Smart Water on one side and holy water in a Virgin Mary bottle on the other. In two self-portraits he dresses as Lakshmi and Shiva, deities from his own Hindu heritage. In his image of Shiva, It’s the End of the World, as We Know It, and I Feel Fine, 2010, Reddy poses for the dance of destruction with glow sticks and a cosmic background borrowed straight out of Detroit’s rave scene (from which he took a sense of enlightenment during his adolescence in the city). In his version of Lakshmi for Untitled (Lakishmi), 2010, he stands in a digitally made palace interior surrounded by gas station bounty—a junk food buffet. Both images offer material and debased forms of transcendence and comfort within a context of faith, myth, and religious devotion.

Yet Reddy’s aim seems to be not to trivialize iconography but to make it more accessible. This perspective becomes clear when viewers follow a set of instructions that Reddy provides at the entrance to his show, including, among other actions, to deposit their fears forever in a series of small ballot boxes. If they take Reddy’s work as an argument not against religion but in favor of the central role that faith can assume in our daily activities, they can trustingly follow his guidance through a process of admitting their worries and doubts and finding release from them.