Critics’ Picks

Neha Vedpathak, Illuminance, Radiance, Immanence, 2022, hand-plucked paper, acrylic paint, thread, 62 x 49".

Neha Vedpathak, Illuminance, Radiance, Immanence, 2022, hand-plucked paper, acrylic paint, thread, 62 x 49".


Neha Vedpathak

David Klein Gallery
1520 Washington Boulevard
April 22–May 27, 2023

Indian-born Neha Vedpathak has been working in Detroit since 2016, developing a labor-intensive practice that embraces the spirit of a city built from raw materials and elbow grease. Using her proprietary “plucking” technique, the artist pulls apart the fibers of Japanese papers to create sculptural surfaces resembling netting or rough-hewn textiles. She then applies paint to the treated paper, whose mulberry fibers absorb the acrylics, resulting in rich matte colors. Vedpathak’s art has a fragile and pliable appearance but, like womanhood—just one of the many themes she explores in her work—it is strong and resilient.

Making up perhaps her most intimate and personal exhibition yet, the pieces in “Creative Force” incorporate Vedpathak’s studies in Tantric and Zen Buddhism to formulate an aesthetic response to the current threat against women’s reproductive rights in America. Collectively they resonate with an esoteric sexualized energy, while the accumulation of time and labor in their making—reflected in the subtle imperfections of their materiality—has a transcendent effect. Works such as Illuminance, Radiance, Immanence, 2022, draw formal inspiration from the juxtaposition of the dark-blue skin and red tongue of the Hindu war goddess Kali, while Equanimity, 2023, highlights the artist’s imperceptible hand-sewing techniques. The effort Vedpathak invests in her art is evidenced through our careful observation of it, which reveals a rich trove of hidden details, such as the deftly executed ombré passages in large expanses of treated paper. 

The expansive microcosmic textures of Vedpathak’s objects index her labor and the countless repetitive actions comprising it. It is much too easy to gender her output, which some may associate with “women’s work” in its relationship to quilting and other forms of craft. But when the tiny cells of ripped paper gather into colorful abstractions, the blunt force of her loosely cohering compositions feels distinctly unfeminine. By referencing destructive female deities such as Kali, Vedpathak’s plucking action feels less like meditative embroidery and more like the stoking of a fire.