AN ABSENCE OF ASSIGNABLE CAUSE
NOVEMBER 15 – DECEMBER 22, 2007
513 WEST 20TH STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10011
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An Absence of Assignable Cause
November 15 – December 22, 2007
Opening reception, Thursday, November 15, 6–8 PM
Jack Shainman Gallery is pleased to present “An absence of assignable cause”, its inaugural exhibition of new sculptures and paintings by artist Bharti Kher opening Thursday, November 15th, from 6 – 8 pm. The artist will be present.
A rising star on the contemporary Indian art scene, Kher is rapidly becoming well-known for her deeply personal, evocative, and layered imagery. She explores questions of identity, multiplicity and tradition and yet in her work there often appears to be a dual-aesthetic at play. What is apparent in Bharti Kher's work is that it locates itself at the crossroads of technological and ecological dystopias and that her creations continue to carry redemptive power in their new environments. The works move from the morphed body to surfaces encoded with patterns of exile, immigration, and the crossing of boundaries.
This exhibition is comprised of recent sculptures depicting life-sized objects including an elephant, a tree, a whale heart, and a tea set, and a series of wall-mounted panels comprised of multi-colored bindis. Employing the bindi as a central motif in her work, Kher uses this tiny object to transform the surfaces of both her sculptures and her paintings. Sensual abstract designs created by the bindi swirl together to form extraordinary textured surfaces resembling a cloth or membrane that gently hugs and accentuates the folds and weight of the elephant’s skin, the heart’s chambers, and the visually arresting compositions of the paintings.
Derived from bindu, the Sanskrit word for a dot or a point, the bindi is a forehead decoration traditionally made with red pigment and worn by Hindu men and women. It represents the “third eye” the all knowing intrinsic wisdom. In recent times this divine symbol has become secular; nevertheless Kher takes advantage of the visual and conceptual underpinning of her source material and its cultural significance and uses the bindi as a marker or sign and now her signature.
The bindi becomes that leitmotif that connects disparate ideas and things. Kher expresses a need to cast a common link, and through that the need to gravitate towards stability, the center, like the bindi, when so many things in the conflicted world are unstable and out of control.
Animals, a recurring theme in Kher’s work, serve as a metaphor for the body and transformation, appearing here in miniature as warnings on her life-size tree, life-size as a female elephant, and a small organ from the largest ever of mammals: the whale. The elephant titled The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own is full of pathos; the viewer is unsure whether death or recovery is the next stage for this creature.
The disembodied whale heart is exemplary of Kher’s play with scale and binary oppositions. The associations, prompting nautical fantasies but also reminding us of the proximate threat of extinction. For Kher this vision of the largest organ of any known being on earth forms “a link between the elephant and the tree”.
From a larger perspective, Kher's work is a highly personal vision of a society maladjusted to the vagaries of market forces and the effects of displacement on one hand and the growing disconnect with the animal world on the other. I like to call her work an exploration of "in-betweeness:" it traces the relationship between the interior and exterior, humans and animals, and technology and nature.
Bharti Kher was born and raised in England, returned to India after studying Fine Art and Painting in Newcastle. She now lives and works in New Delhi. She has exhibited her work extensively throughout the world, and her work is part of several important public and private international collections. This is her first solo exhibition at the gallery. A hardcover catalogue is available.
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