Critics’ Picks

Tanya Goel, Mechanisms 2, 2019, ash, aluminum, mirror, glass, foil, acrylics, brick and iron dust on canvas, 84 x 108". From the series “Mechanisms,” 2019.

New York

Tanya Goel

507 West 27th Street Gallery 5
April 25–May 21, 2019

New Delhi is changing. Its many modernist structures, mostly public housing built between 1960 and 1980, are undergoing mass demolition. Tanya Goel grew up in the megacity just as many of these edifices were being erected. Her exhibition here, “This, the Sublime and its Double,” reconstitutes what remains.

Goel’s intimately sized “color chart” paintings are gritty because she grinds her own pigments from architectural detritus––such as mica, concrete, glass, aluminum, and coal––found throughout New Delhi. The artist uses these works to plot the palettes for her larger canvases with a paint-by-letter system. The resultant series of paintings, “Mechanisms,” 2019, have their own “material archive,” as Goel calls it, both natural and manmade, which includes leaves, twigs, mirrors, silk swatches, and aluminum. Though the “Mechanisms” works share an underlying grid and an algorithm in the style of “pure” geometric abstraction––as well as an interest in the haptic––they also depict something much more atmospheric: light.

Goel’s sculptures are likewise the products of the artist’s collecting, or, as she characterizes it, “things piling up.” Stacks of concrete fragments from low-income dwellings bring her field data to scale. Goel adds her own colorful layers to their preexisting frescoed turquoise surfaces. Yet she knows her enhancements fall short. New Delhi’s Housing for All scheme, a beautification and infrastructural effort intended to create shelter for the poor and marginalized, has ironically resulted in demolitions, forced evictions, land grabs from indigenous communities, and, ultimately, homelessness. Goel’s deceptively cool abstractions take on an ethical bent as records of displacement.