Hauz Khas Village, 27 January – 17 March 2018
Kala Ghoda, 19 August – 4 November 2017
In the articulation of twentieth century art, where does one place Altaf Mohamedi? That question has probably troubled more curators than we realise. Altaf, who studied art in London before returning to Bombay (now Mumbai) was following in the footsteps of his elder sister and artist Nasreen Mohamedi, but that is where all similarities ended. Where Nasreen was an abstract, sparse artist who created a distinctive language using, for most part, rigid, inflexible lines that nevertheless sang on the paper over which they were made, Altaf’s work was intensely political and social.
In a sense, that itself was a contradiction. An affable, well-read, extremely friendly and pleasant person, and belonging to a wealthy milieu, Altaf nevertheless chose to align his work to a Marxist political ideology in which he was completely invested. Not only did he take his work to the Matunga Labour Camp and to slums in Bombay, he worked with mobile creches, printed counter-revolutionary posters with his wife Navjot and their friends in Proyom (Progressive Youth Movement), and refused to consider his visual practice from a perspective based on aesthetics alone, instead preferring the more deeply thought and felt, arising from a level of intellectualisation rare in Indian art at the time.
This retrospective is a reflection of that thought process. Altaf’s works are surprisingly strong and evocative of his belief in the politics of power and corruption, the marginalisation of the proletariat, and are haunted by the spectre of death. Memorialisation and displacement, parallels with myths, an occupation with concerns of life and death, Altaf’s world was intended to mirror an alternate reality of a decaying, dystopian culture. To a great extent, he was successful, though it might be argued that an excess of thinking smudged the result.
This retrospective brings together views and counterviews of Altaf’s beliefs and his art and the relationship between them.
'The show is a chain of connections built with observations, emotions and contemplations. His perceptiveness penetrated deep through his philosophies of life that he manifested on the white board’