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View of “Bharti Kher,” 2012. Foreground: The skin speaks a language not its own, 2006. Background, from left: From the beginning to the end, 2012; Solarum Series I, 2007/2010.

Bharti Kher

Parasol unit

View of “Bharti Kher,” 2012. Foreground: The skin speaks a language not its own, 2006. Background, from left: From the beginning to the end, 2012; Solarum Series I, 2007/2010.

Baubles, bangles, and bindis came out to play at New Delhiite Bharti Kher’s recent solo show. Waiting for visitors in the middle of the gallery was the work Kher has become more than a little famous for: The skin speaks a language not its own, 2006, a life-size white fiberglass elephant stretched out on the floor. Covered with velvety, sperm-shaped white bindis (the tiny dots that married Indian women wear on their foreheads as signs of fertility), it looked rather sad. Was the elephant asleep? Or dying? Its dramatic scale, and the ugly-beautiful delicacy of its “skin,” gave viewers pause—for a while.

Most of Kher’s iconic works were on parade along with the bindi-smothered beast. Unfortunately, not all wielded that work’s power to floor us: Some would have benefited from more local context than they were given at this survey of the brightest and most beguiling of Kher’s works,

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