DELHI | Dec 19, 2016 - Feb 27, 2017
NEW YORK | Sep 15, 2016 - Nov 30, 2016
So much of Indian modernism is enriched by the work that some of its best known artists produced after they had left the country, choosing as home another land. F. N. Souza was the first to leave, in 1949, to head for London, where a successful practice catapulted him to the top of Britain’s artists. He was followed, in 1950, by S. H. Raza, who settled in Paris, winning the coveted critics’ award (Prix de la critique) in 1956, while others such as Krishna Reddy (Paris and New York), S. K. Bakre (London), Sakti Burman (Paris), Avinash Chandra (London and New York), Mohan Samant (New York), Natvar Bhavsar (New York), V. Viswanadhan (Paris), Sohan Qadri (Copenhagen), Rajendra Dhawan (Paris), Eric Bowen (Oslo), Ambadas (Oslo), and Zarina Hashmi (New York), followed in the 1950s-70s. These fourteen artists, with their diverse styles and concerns in art making, are masters lauded for the sheer range of responses to their environment that their work has registered. However, the question this exhibition forefronts, as its curator Kishore Singh asks, is: ‘Does the artist’s ethnic identity mean art too has an ethnic identity?’
The diaspora artist, particularly, carries the baggage of her or his identity on the sleeve, sharpened by nostalgia but it would be a disservice to assume their art necessarily derives from this sub-consciousness. Yet, the Western art critic has often slotted the diaspora artist within an exotic, ethnic otherness, reading into his work something that may not necessarily exist.
Memory & Identity: Indian Artists Abroad takes up this dichotomy and duality that makes up the diaspora artist’s cultural and artistic identity. Some artists appear to have lived up to the imposed identity of an Indianness: others ignore it; while a certain Indian ethos appears to permeate the work of some, even if outwardly Western. Dwelling both on the complexities of memory and identity, this exhibition the work of some of the best known Indian artists through this lens, to better address the persistent concerns that constitute ‘identity’.