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Posts Tagged ‘survey’

Mixed reviews for Serpentine’s Indian Highway show in London – Evening Standard, Independent

Posted by artradar on December 18, 2008


N S Harsha Melting

N S Harsha Melting

 

INDIAN ART OVERVIEW SHOW

Indian Highway to 22 February 2009 Serpentine Gallery London

Indian Highway, a show of 25 contrasting artists from India, is billed by the Serpentine as a “snapshot of a vibrant generation of artists” and “a timely presentation of their pioneering work following the remarkable and rapid economic social and cultural developments in India in recent years”. 

The show which  incorporates architecture, art, literature and performance, will continually grow as it tours internationally to different institutions for the next four years. After London, it will be presented at Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo, from 4 April to 21 June 2009, where it will expand with the addition of new works as well as a section curated by Bose Krishnamachari.

M F Husain Naad Swaram Ganeshayem

M F Husain Naad Swaram Ganeshayem

The show features the following artists some of whom have already made an impact on the international art world:

Ayisha Abraham
Ravi Agarwal
Nikhil Chopra
Raqs Media Collective
Sheela Gowda
Sakshi Gupta
Shilpa Gupta
Subodh Gupta
N. S. Harsha
M. F. Husain
Jitish Kallat
Amar Kanwar
Bharti Kher
Bose Krishnamachari
Nalini Malani
Tejal Shah
Dayanita Singh
Kiran Subbaiah
Ashok Sukumaran & Shaina Anand

In an inevitable comparison with Saatchi’s show of Chinese art, Indian Highway comes out on top in the Evening Standard.

Everything that Saatchi gets wrong with his Chinese show the Serpentine gets right in its Indian one. While the Duke of York’s Baracks show is a chart of the cheesiest Chinese auction house hits, the Serpentine is a treasure trove of subtlety and surprise.

There are new history paintings from India’s 93-year-old Modernist master, a multi-screen documentary of cinematic quality about terrible violence against women, sculptures made from whistles and rotating microphones about sectarian division, and a wall drawing of super-sized technicolor bhindis.

Typical of the shrewd tack taken is the way the exhibition handles the two shooting stars of the Indian contemporary art boom, Jitish Kallat and Subodh Gupta. Kallat’s large portraits of impoverished Indians, painted in a colourful screen-printed style, with their turbans transformed into intricate urban scenes, have become must-haves for aspiring billionaire collectors. Nothing that predictable here, though. Instead we have a series of photographs of dilapidated urban India, often decorated with stencils of Hindu gods.

But Kallat’s photographs are lenticular – that kind of 3-D photo with a fuzzy surface which takes on depth and reveals hidden details as one stands at an angle to it – a kind of photography you will know from souvenir postcards of tourist attractions, cartoon characters and Princess Diana. Kallat’s process turns a photojournalistic essay into not only an alluringly colourful spectacle but also a conceptual work which plays on where tourists find beauty in India and ennobles a popular visual idiom.

ravi_agarwal___kite_102525a

Ravi Agarwal Kite

Subodh Gupta is India’s best-known contemporary artist, whose trademark works are made out of Indian cooking utensils. He won early fame with a set of shelves with neat piles of stainless steel pots and pans, organised according to minimalism’s simple geometries.

At the Serpentine, however, there is not a trace of his kitchenware. Instead, he presents an evocative installation based on the interior of an Indian county court. There are worn wooden tables, half-broken chairs, ageing electronic typewriters and bundles of creased files. I had become rather disillusioned by all the repetitive pots-and-pans pieces I’d seen by Gupta over the past few years, and I loathe the terrible spin-off photorealist paintings of the same kitchenware which have been on show in every auction preview. The new work shows what resources this artist can tap as long as he doesn’t pander to the tastes of his dimwitted market of millionaire collectors.

Alongside these shooting stars, there is also India’s most famour post-war artist MF Husain, born in 1915. He is represented here in depth by a large number of canvases including several which have been exhibited – in another imaginative act of curating – on the outside of the building.

Husain is a sure-footed master of colour and texture and his compositions are boldly drawn – a mass of charging horses, elephants, mountain ranges and dynamic figures. He has only just begun to receive the recognition he deserves, but a demanding viewer may feel his old-fashioned mythological modernism owes too much to Chagall and Kandinsky for comfort.

The show makes plain some of the shortcomings of younger contemporary artists in fast-developing economies that will have flashed through the mind of anyone familiar with contemporary Chinese art. There is a sense of these artists having quickly learned to speak the foreign language of conceptual art-ese. They get the basic grammar – take a material of symbolic significance in your home country and make a big sculpture of something else with it

Overall, the work is of sufficient interest to push these criticisms to the back of the mind. The Indians don’t make the worst mistakes of their Chinese counterparts – there is no subcontinental equivalent of Wang Guanyi’s gimmicky Maoist propaganda posters peppered with Coca-Cola logos, or Zhang Xaiogang’s cutesy soft-focus paintings of bug-eyed Cultural Revolution families. The Indian artists engage with the politics of the present, not nostalgia. The work has an impressive discipline and severity, from which flashes of fairytales suddenly burst forth.

Evening Standard review

While the Evening Standard gives legendary MF Husain and the show overall a wavering thumbs up,  the Independent has nothing much good to say starting with the show’s guiding theme. “There must be some agenda, some network of contacts, guiding the selection. A more knowing person than me could tell you what. ” And the presence of ‘Picasso of India’ s MF Husain’s work confuses matters further:

The difficulty with Husain’s art is a matter of reputation. Why should he be rated as an even remotely interesting or important artist? His crudely cartoony pictures seem to belong, not at this gallery, but across the park, on the railings of Bayswater Road. Yet in an Indian context he has been a major figure. And so a baffling cultural gap opens up, about which the show leaves us none the wiser.

There’s no such gap with the work of the younger artists. On the contrary: it looks exactly like the kind of thing you’d find at the Serpentine. Its content is often Indian, but its forms are the established idioms of international contemporary art. You’ll find all the familiar fixtures: the room-filling installation, the multi-screen video projection, the enormous colour photograph, the found-object assemblage.

If you have any doubts about the embrace of artistic globalisation, Indian Highway will settle them. You could give the show a brisk walk-through, and almost not notice where things came from.

Where Indian culture is referenced, the Independent finds the motifs and usage too obvious.

Bharti Kher makes everything – or covers everything – in bindis (adhesive forehead dot decorations). Bose Krishnamachari makes much use of tiffins (the much-used metal cylindrical lunch box). Slightly obvious ideas, true, the sort of idea you can imagine an Indian artist having rather easily – and it turns out they’re used in rather an obvious way, too.

Subodh Gupta

Subodh Gupta

I found myself feeling that too often. The work is plausible enough, but nothing special. Shilpa Gupta’s In Our Times puts two old-fashioned microphones see-sawing on a stand, broadcasting the Independence speeches of Nehru (India) and Jinnah (Pakistan), delivered by a woman’s voice. Well, if I was pretending to be an Indian artist, that’s the kind of thing I’d do!

Or there’s Subodh Gupta, who’s been dubbed – well, it had to happen – “the Damien Hirst of India”, but here he appears more in the character of “the Mike Nelson of India”, with a room filled with a run-down and packed-up office. But then, same problem again: compared with Nelson’s dense and atmospheric environments, this is a very thin and under-imagined space.

I thought Nalini Malani had something, painting flights of female figures on clear acrylic panes, where swirling smears of pigment get transformed into snaking bodies. And Kiran Subbaiah’s brief video, Flight Rehearsals, about an introverted young man climbing the walls of his bedroom, was tight and funny. And Amar Kanwar’s The Lightning Testimonies used that unpromising form – the eight-screen all-around projection – and nearly made it work. But there’s nothing to bring you running.

An India-focused show looks like a good idea. But if it turns out to be a dud, then it’s a very bad idea. Anything disparaging you say about it is likely to become a disparaging generalisation about India itself. And if none of the art seems much good, you’re tempted to think that there’s a general cultural problem. The artists may seem fluent in contemporary art, but this language is clearly a Western invention. They have adopted it in an efficient but derivative way, as a badge of contemporaneity. They lack the confidence to take it over and reshape it.

Maybe. But an alternative explanation is available. It is simply that the artists in this show are stymied by the almost universal problem of not being very good artists. It can happen to artists anywhere. And then the question is, why the Serpentine didn’t find better ones?

Independent

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Two decade survey of Chinese contemporary art ‘Our Future’ at Ullens Center Beijing to 12 October 2008

Posted by artradar on August 27, 2008


 SURVEY EXHIBITION CHINESESE CONTEMPORARY ART BEIJING to 12 Oct 2008
This series of exhibitions, site commissions and educational projects entitled “Our Future” aims at opening its door to the future of art in China.

The exhibition will give wide-angle view of the work and artistic practice of several generations of artists. Through special commissions and new acquisitions, work rarely seen before will be viewable to the public.

Featuring around 60 Chinese artists, the exhibition will present no less than 92 works by such prominent names as Chen Zhen, Gu Wenda, Huang Yong Ping, Wang Guangyi, Wang Du, Zhang Xiaogang.

New projects, performances and educational works from Cao Fei, He Yunchang, Qiu Zhijie and Yang Jiechang have been especially created for the Our Future exhibition.

“Our Future: Site Commissions” is a long-term project and has commissioned installations, murals, paintings and sculptures especially designed for the exhibition site by artists such as Ai Wei Wei, Michael Lin, Wang Du, Wang Jianwei, Wen Fang, Yan Lei and Yan Peiming.
Throughout the interior and exterior of the building, the organizer will pay tribute to the work these artists have accomplished over the past two decades in bringing Chinese contemporary art onto the international art scene by devoting its entire 8,000 square meters space to sustain their artistic creations, beyond the exhibition halls.

“Our Future: The Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation Collection”
Exhibition Date: 19 Jul 2008 – 12 Oct 2008

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If you are interested in this post, you might also be interested to read more about the UBS four decade survey of contemporary art on show in Beijing to November 7 2008.

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China refuses to lend art to Asia Society New York show 2008

Posted by artradar on August 22, 2008


SURVEY CHINESE ART NEW YORK September 5 2008 to January 11 2009
China has reversed its decision to lend Asia Society nearly 100 objects from Chinese museums for an exhibition that focuses on revolutionary Chinese art from the 1950s through the ’70s, scheduled to open on Sept. 5 in Manhattan, the society’s president said.

The Chinese Ministry of Culture had originally agreed to allow the society to borrow works for the show, “Art and China’s Revolution,” promoted as among the first comprehensive exhibitions devoted to that era and one that will examine the effects of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution on artists and art production in China.

Despite the Chinese government’s decision, Asia Society has decided to proceed with the show by seeking loans from private collectors.

The approach of the Olympics seemed to have been the deal breaker. “Initially, they said, ‘Any loans you want; no problem,’ ” said Vishakha N. Desai, the society’s president. “The closer it got to the Olympics, they changed their policy.”

“It has more to do with China’s desire and aspiration to be seen in a new light,” Ms. Desai added. “This is a time for celebration. They don’t want to be reminded of a difficult past.”

“To some extent, it’s better,” she said. “We don’t want ever to be seen as being sanctioned by the government.”

“Even though this is a period many would prefer to forget, it is nevertheless one that produced a visual culture that continues to permeate contemporary Chinese art,” Mr. Zheng said in a news release.

One section of the exhibition addresses artists who went against the prevailing style, including Pan Tianshou, Lin Fengmian, Zhao Yannian, Li Keran and Shi Lu, some of whom were persecuted and called “black artists.”

The show also includes works by a younger generation of contemporary artists, like Xu Bing, Chen Danqing and Zhang Hongtu, who attribute many of their artistic influences to their years spent in the countryside as part of their “re-education.”

Mao started the Cultural Revolution in 1966 to purge China of its bourgeoise elements and to advance class struggle. The revolution also represented Mao’s effort to regain control of the Communist Party from his rivals Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping after the Great Leap Forward. The conflict eventually devolved into a decade-long period of power struggles and political instability.

During the revolution, art was often used as propaganda to deliver a political message to a mass audience. Older artists sometimes adopted revolutionary themes; many others had their works destroyed and were persecuted. At the same time, some younger artists aspired to have their paintings become “model works,” mass-produced in posters and newspapers. The Asia Society exhibition seeks to capture the varied artistic ramifications of this political turmoil.

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Wang Huaiqing - Long live Gutian spirit 1967

Wang Huaiqing - Long live Gutian spirit 1967

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