Critics’ Picks

Mrinalini Mukherjee, Palmscape IX, 2015, bronze, 62 x 110 x 24”.

Mrinalini Mukherjee, Palmscape IX, 2015, bronze, 62 x 110 x 24”.

New Delhi

Mrinalini Mukherjee

National Gallery of Modern Art | New Delhi
Jaipur House, India Gate
January 27–March 29, 2015

This retrospective brings together over ninety works created by Mrinalini Mukherjee in hemp, ceramics, and bronze over the past four decades. Curated by Peter Nagy, it comes on the heels of her untimely demise on February 2, shortly after the show opened.

Mukherjee forged for herself a distinctive artistic vocabulary, and her “goddesses,” for which she is well known, are literally tied up in knots. Fashioned out of twisted hemp rope, these totemic creatures appear grotesque yet magnificent, powerful yet benign. Similarly, her fiber pieces Pakshi, 1985; Devi, 1982; and Vanshree, 1994, are reminiscent of yakshas, or nature spirits, depicted in Asian temple sculptures. Drawing on the organic, her forms evoke associations of lush herbage and dark, verdant forests, of a landscape that is both fruitful and fertile. These are reinforced by the sexual references of her phallic forms and the mysterious recesses and orifices in her sculptures.. Voluptuous and sprouting genitalia, her celestial beings are clearly on an overdose of hormones.

For the past two decades, Mukherjee ventured to use other materials for her biomorphic forms—first ceramics and then bronzes. Fusing the macabre and the ornamental, Earthbloom, 1996, presents a hacked torso with blossoming breasts. Her recent bronze works, cast from wax and plants, offer creatures that oscillate between the plant and animal kingdom. Palmscape IX, 2015, for example, resembles a date palm petrified in molten metal and offers a bursting efflorescence.