That there are two Indias has been accepted for long, with the dichotomy only getting accentuated over the years. Rarely do the twain meet in the art world, with exhibitions essentially white cube affairs where the wine swilling crowd gathers to nibble on delectable hors d’oeuvres and savour the growing value of its investments. A new show that opened in the capital today attempts to bring down the barriers.
Titled ‘Yeh Image Mahaan: India Meets Bharat’, the exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi’s new basement gallery hangs pop imagery and tribal art on the same wall.
‘‘Most galleries hold separate shows for what is called folk or tribal art but here, the attempt is to redefine contemporary art,’’ says Pratiti Basu Sarkar of Kolkata’s CIMA gallery which has put the show together.
The result is an interesting confluence of artists. If there is young Gond artist Mayank Singh Shyam painting the Lal Qila in black and white, there is Sumitro Basak using popular culture to allude to Kolkata’s famous Rizwanur murder case. Fux, a spoof on the underwear brand, becomes an impish pun on the four-letter expletive for Shantiniketantrained Basak.
The blood that has flowed in Bengal spills over to modernist Jogen Chowdhury’s canvas. His untitled work depicts a body with three bullet wounds in the back suggestive of state violence. Shakila, a vegetable vendor’s daughter who is making quite a name for herself in the art world, makes her own allusion to Nandigram with a paper collage.
If there are modern controversies, there are also modern concerns. Kingshuk Sarkar creates a slothful octopus sculpture from used plastic bags to comment on consumption while Mumbai-based Meera Devidayal uses galvanised steel sheets to recreate the dinginess of a tiny home in Thane.
Even an advertisement campaign to mark the arrival of The Times of India in Chennai which brought out the quirks of South Indian politics is part of the show.
Curator Rakhi Sarkar says the exhibition is a journey that bridges urban concrete with rural gravel. And knowing India, there are bound to be a few potholes on the way.