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This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the June 12, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Zimmerli Opens Window on India
To generalize about the art of India, the vast and
varied subcontinent in southern Asia, would be as counterproductive,
and probably inaccurate, as generalizing about the people of India.
However could you do it?
Since gaining independence in 1947, India — the most populous
democracy in the world, a country of nearly 1.5 billion people, and
counting, and more than 1 million square miles; with climatic, linguistic,
religious, and cultural differences that makes the word "diversity"
sound inadequate — could be expected to have fostered creation
of myriad forms of art. And so it has.
Now through July 31, more than 100 works by contemporary Indian artists
are on view at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum of Rutgers University
in New Brunswick. As its title indicates, "India: Contemporary
Art from Northeastern Private Collections" was drawn from multiple
sources of modern Indian art.
This exhibition very quickly surprises. To begin with, the gallery
walls have been painted vivid colors. By reflecting the extraordinarily
bright multi-colors of Indian culture itself, they foreshadow (or
fore-light!) many of the pieces on view. Also great number of the
paintings (the exhibition is mostly two-dimensional works) are unexpectedly
Finally and most significant, it’s not all about exotic women wearing
saris, and other such "predictable" subjects — instead,
reflecting the same international art movements that swept the rest
of the world, some are cubist or pointillist or impressionistic in
style; there are both abstract and figurative works; tribal and folk
art; and as might be expected, images of family life and daily scenes.
Innumerable references to the myths, religions, culture, climate,
and history of India occur throughout the exhibition.
"These artists didn’t want to forget, or dissociate themselves
from their culture. So they reconfigured their art in terms of modern
styles, but still used traditional subject matter. It may be buried
within the expressionism, cubism, fauvism, but it’s still there. That’s
what they knew; that’s what they wanted to maintain," says Jeffrey
Wechsler, the Zimmerli’s chief curator. With Umesh Gaur, a leading
collector of contemporary Indian art in this country, and the person
who, with his wife and co-collector, Sunanda, first proposed such
an exhibition, he also mounted the show and edited its catalog in
record time once an unanticipated time slot opened.
"Indian artists were in the flow of international modes of art.
Their art looks modern and contemporary because it is, but then it
has within it aspects of the Indian culture." Wechsler gives this
example: "In the 1960s and ’70s, Indian artists saw geometric
abstraction, yet because they wanted to retain Indian source materials,
they used tantric diagrams and geometries to create a new Indian abstraction."
"Tantric" alludes to a realm of philosophy, Wechsler says,
and "Neo-Tantric" is one of the four groupings into which
this exhibition is organized. Historically, the Progressive Artists’
Group is considered India’s first major organized group of contemporary
artists. Works by those in the Neo-Tantric group are marked by bright
colors and geometric forms.
The third group has to do with social commentary in the context of
Indian culture and history. Reflecting real life, their subjects range
from positive and beautiful to dark, strange, or grotesque. The fourth
grouping is made up of more contemporary Indian artists dealing with
current social issues.
Forgetting scholarship for awhile, take a walk through these vivid-hued
rooms and simply look — and enjoy.
Krishna Hawlaji Ara’s "Untitled," an image of
a woman with a bird cage, seems immediately familiar. The Matisse-like
outlining of a rounded figure and the inclusion of flowers in the
composition make this "voluminous female nude" an appealing
image. Maqbool Fida Husain’s "Mother" reimagines the familiar
Pieta scene in an Indian setting, with three madonnas, or mothers
who are actually faceless Bengali women. The theme’s extreme poignancy
seems heightened now, for good reason.
The influence of cubism is apparent in Jehangir Sabavala’s "Whispered
Intimations," showing two women, portrayed in soft tones of gray,
brown, and apricot. And in Tyeb Mehta’s "Diagonal Series,"
this artist employs a jagged diagonal color-slash that splits both
image and canvas in two. (Shades of Barnett Newman’s "zips.")
Hung in proximity to one another, the canvases of V.S. Gaitonde are
typically divided into horizontal zones of color that make for abstractly
allusive images. His two early "Untitled" pieces contrast
dramatically with his "Abstract Form" of 30 years later. It
is essentially red; they are both muted.
The religious city of Banaras on the Ganges River, as seen by Ram
Kumar, is the subject of images made 20 years apart. His 1974 "Untitled"
oil shows it in a range of brown and yellow ocher, with variations
in the degree of impasto that approximate a relief. The acrylic "Banaras"
of 1993 is mostly rendered in blue and white tones, and lines suggesting
the city’s congestion — without including a single human figure.
Savoring an amazingly detailed patterned painting of stylized trees
by Jangarh Singh Shyam, a tribal artist, could be the work of hours.
This large oil on canvas shows two birds and a tree in leaf —
and much, much more. N.S. Bendre’s untitled landscape employs pointillist
technique with softly clear colors. Interestingly, its very details
contribute to a smoothly simple image.
In an otherworldly, possibly imagined moonscape, Paramjit Singh shows
bright-colored rock forms in the "sky" above a warm, reddish
surface. It would probably not be a good idea to take a walk in this
terrain. In a total departure from that scene, the same artist’s "Afternoon
in the Wilderness" is likened to Monet’s studies of light reflections.
Surface interest marks the works of a few artists. The technique of
Rameshwar Broota, for instance, involves nicking the surface with
a blade to evacuate the image through layers of paint. "Scripted
in Time II," an oil on canvas, tells many-leveled stories. The
pebbly-to-explosive surface of Natvar Bhavsar’s "Haampee III"
resulted from his pressing pure pigment through a fine screen onto
Described as "a tantric diagram," Anil Revri’s "Veiled
Doorway 6" is filled with multitudes of dots and lines that cause
a viewer to look again at the medium (oil on canvas) before sinking
into contemplation of the work itself. Compelling in a different way
is Syed Haider Raza’s abstract acrylic on canvas, "Bindu-Naad,"
which shows how sound waves radiate out from a central "bindu,"
echoing to infinity. The repeated images suggest the potential power
of repeated sounds.
What words to describe the oil-on-canvas images of Manjit Bawa —
fanciful? allegorical? Colorful, surely; fun, very likely. In these
three oils of animals and people, all float in a world of flat color
with no ground line. A herd of cows is unlike any other herd, any
The man "In His Office" bears watching. As rendered by Bikash
Bhattacharjee, he is surrounded by stacks of paper and the usual desk
paraphernalia, but some key elements of this sizable "portrait"
are missing: pupils in the subject’s eyes, for instance, and all writing
and calculating tools — no sign of pens or pencils, typewriters
or computers. Is he the archetypical bureaucrat? Is that why he is
at once recognizable and faceless?
The exhibition also includes some darkly repellent images. Francis
Newton Souza’s expressive pictures of a butcher, a philosopher, and
a nude queen raise as many questions about him as they do their subjects.
Collecting, of course, is the antithesis of matching the painting
with the couch, and certainly this artist must be significant in the
history of India’s modern art, but it’s still a puzzlement what a
collector does with such works — beyond owning them.
One caution: although they reflect their owners’ judgments of what
should be valued in modern Indian art, the works in this exhibition
do not necessarily represent a microcosm of the modern art period
in India. For instance, there are just a few sculptures and two prints
in the show — a fact that provides insight only into what collectors
may want to acquire, Wechsler says, and not the frequency with which
these mediums may occur in contemporary Indian art.
"Twins," a smoothly curvilinear sculpture by Satish Gujral,
makes granite look eminently workable, down to the varied surface
embellishments. An unexpected little fillip is the row of cowrie shells
embedded along the back of the piece. S. Nandagopal’s untitled painted
metal sculpture contains one of the show’s many references to Ganesh,
the genial, elephant-headed god. Nearly three feet tall, the piece
is noteworthy for its detail and its vivid colors.
In his catalog introduction, Wechsler points out that Middlesex County
(home to both the Zimmerli and Rutgers, the State University, of which
the art museum is an academic department) is thought to be the American
county with the largest percentage of residents of Indian origin.
Further, four out of 10 Indian-Americans in America live in New Jersey.
These demographics have combined with the availability from generous
collectors of modern Indian art and a fortuitously timed opening at
the Zimmerli to make the current exhibition — and the resultant
pleasure, surprise, and enlightenment — possible.
— Pat Summers
Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "India: Contemporary Art From Northeastern
Private Collections," the largest exhibition of its kind to be
held in an American museum, on exhibit to July 31. Museum hours are
Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday,
noon to 5 p.m. Admission $3 adults; under 18 free; museum is open
free to the public on the first Sunday of every month.
Also on view, "Imagining a Better World: A Remembrance of the
Holocaust," watercolor paintings by Nelly Toll; to June 30."The
Baltics: Nonconformist and Modernist Art During the Soviet Era," the
first major survey of modernist art produced in Estonia, Latvia, and
Lithuania during the post-Soviet period; "Efim Ladyzhensky;"
"In Context: Patterns in Contemporary Printmaking;" and "By
All Means: Materials and Mood in Picture Book Illustrations."
All to July 31.
New Brunswick, 732-846-5777. "From the Old World to the New World,"
an exhibit of recent additions to the museum collection featuring
works by nine Hungarian Americans, all of whom emigrated to the U.S.
between 1920 and 1957. Artists are Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Bertha and
Elena De Hellenbranth, Sandor Sugor, Emil Kelemen, Willy Pogany, Tibor
Gergely, Zoltan Poharnok, and Vicent Korda; to April, 2003. Museum
hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to
4 p.m. $5 donation.
732-745-4177. "Uncommon Clay: New Jersey’s Architectural Terra
Cotta Industry," an exhibition of artifacts and written and oral
histories of New Jersey’s once booming architectural ceramics industry.
Open Tuesday through Friday, 1 to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.
On view to May 30, 2003.
908-735-8415. National juried print exhibition selected by Eileen
Foti of Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper. Also on exhibit,
"Eileen Foti: Images of Extinction." Both shows to June 23.
Tuesday- Sunday, 11 a.m.- 5 p.m.
215-340-9800. "Bucks County Invitational V," the annual show
of contemporary works features Vincent Ceglia and Lisa Manheim, paintings;
sculpture by Karl Karhuma; and the photography of Claus Mroczynski;
to July 7. Outdoors, a group of minimalist sculptures by Maria A.
Hall, to June 30. Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday
& Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Wednesday evenings to 9 p.m. $6.
609-292-6464. "River of Leisure: Recreation Along the Delaware,"
to November 3. "Cruising Down the Delaware: Natural History You
Can See," an introduction to New Jersey’s natural features by
way of the historic waterway, to November 10. Tuesday to Saturday,
9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5.
Also: "Jacob Landau: A Memorial," a selection of 36 works
from the museum’s holdings, in honor of the New Jersey artist who
died last November; to June 30. "Art by African-Americans: A Selection
from the Collection" to August 18; "American Indians as Artists:
The Beginnings of the State Museum’s Ethnographic Collection,"
to September 15. "A Decade of Collecting, Part 1," to January
On extended view: "New Jersey’s Native Americans: The Archaeological
Record"; "Delaware Indians of New Jersey"; "The Sisler
Collection of North American Mammals"; "Neptune’s Architects";
"The Modernists"; "New Jersey Ceramics, Silver, Glass
and Iron;" "Historical Archaeology of Colonial New Jersey;"
"Painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware."
Street, 609-924-8777. Solo exhibition of paintings by Jeff Epstein,
winner of the President’s Award at the 2000 TAWA Exhibition at the
Ellarslie Museum. Epstein completed his MFA from Brooklyn College
in 1993. Gallery open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Show runs
to June 28.
Works," an exhibit of over 100 pieces by American and international
glass artists. Some subdued, some in bright hues, the limited edition
pieces are signed and numbered. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11
a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To June 30.
Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. "From Tow Path to Bike Path: Princeton
and the Delaware and Raritan Canal," an exhibition that looks
at the history and creation of the canal, the life of death of its
workers, and more recent environmental and preservation issues. Open
Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Show runs to March, 2003. Free.
show and sale of Shona stone sculpture of Zimbabwe to benefit area
homeless families. More than 600 works are on exhibit and available
for purchase at prices from $75 to $12,000. Civil unrest in Zimbabwe
makes future exhibits uncertain. Exhibit hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
weekdays; Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To June 16.
In the dining room, exhibit of paintings by Doris Keller Terris, a
member of the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society, Garden State Watercolor,
and American Artist Professional League. Part of proceeds benefit
the Medical Center. Show may be viewed daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
To June 27.
Monotypes and handmade paper collage by Priscilla Snow Algava. Her
work was exhibited in March at the So Hyun Gallery in New York. Artist’s
reception is Sunday, June 16, from 3 to 5 p.m., for the show that
runs to July 2. Gallery is open Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
Friday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Saturdays.
"A Festival of Caribbean Art" featuring works by Canute Caliste
of Carriacou and Haitian-born Etzer Desir. Caliste is a father of
23 and grand and great grandfather of over 200 who paints vividly
of his island home. Desir’s faux-primitive style depicts everyday
life in his native land. Gallery hours Friday and Saturday, 1 to 6
p.m. To June 16.
Drawings and Watercolors: Gifts of Leonard L. Milberg," a collection
of 23 works on paper; to July 21. "Japanese Woodblock Prints,"
a 16-print survey from Suzuki Harunobu (1725) to Hiroshige (1850s);
to September 1. "Guardians of the Tomb: Spirit Beasts in Tang
Dynasty China;" to September 1. Open Tuesday through Saturday,
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free highlights tours every
Saturday at 2 p.m. New website: www.princetonartmuseum.org.
609-258-3184. "Heroic Pastorals: Images of the American Landscape."
Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and
Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Natural Rhythms Stilled," an
exhibition of photographs by John Hess, a photographer and biology
professor at Central Missouri State University. Gallery hours are
Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2 to 8 p.m. To
Lawrenceville, 609-896-5168. Annual exhibition of works by Rider students
in all mediums. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m.;
Friday to Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m. To August 11.
609-397-0275. "2002 Boxes," an exhibition of assemblages by
Ann Thomas. Works that begin with ephemera, become small narratives
that made a dramatic impact. Gallery hours are Monday and Thursday,
1 to 9 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday 1 to
5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To June 29.
A shared show featuring stone and steel sculpture by Nate Goldfarb
and acrylic paintings by Taylor Oughton. Open Friday through Sunday,
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To June 30.
Although working in different materials, both artists say they look
to subject and media for discovery of direction, expression, and feeling.
For Goldfarb it is "the joy in the process of making the piece
that is paramount." For Taylor, it is the sense of being part
of a process by which a painting "seems to make itself."
"Savoring Summer," an exhibit of recent paintings by Lisa
Mahan and John Schmidtberger. Gallery is open Thursday to Sunday,
noon to 5 p.m. To July 8.
609-397-4590. Solo exhibition of silver prints by multi-media artist
Victor Macarol. "My images are gently humorous, often ambiguous,
vignettes on the foibles of humans and other living creatures who
are desperately fighting for survival in an impersonal world,"
says Macarol. The artist is recipient of a New Jersey State Council
on the Arts distinguished artist award. To June 15.
Solo exhibition of paintings by Marlene Baron Summers. To June 30.
215-862-5300. "Figure and Ground: Work by Jonathan Hertzel,"
a show of works on paper and figurative sculpture. Gallery is open
Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.,
and by appointment. To June 29.
Still life oil paintings by Barbara Hayden Lewis. Gallery hours: Tuesday
to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. To June 30.
609-252-6275. "Mind-Body," an invitational group exhibition
of works by artists who explore the subject of science and medical
technology using such tools as MRI, X-rays, and microscopic photography.
Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and weekends
and holidays, 1 to 5 p.m. To June 23.
Exhibiting artists from New Jersey are Abbie Bagley-Young, Catherine
Bebout, Janet Filomeno, Eileen Foti, Frances Heinrich, Maria Lupo,
Tim Trelease, and Debra Weier. Also featured: Rick Bartow, Justine
Cooper, Irina Nalchova, Fredericka Foster Shapiro, Marina Guitierrez,
Jeanne Jaffe, and Inigo Manglano-Ovalle.
"Day Work and Dream Time," sculptures by New York artist N.H.
Chechen featuring figurative compositions in bronze, wood, and copper.
The artist is a graduate of the University of Baghdad who earned his
MFA from Pratt Institute in 1984. He founded and operates the Fine
Art Studios Sculpture Center in Orange County, New York. Open Monday
to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To July 3.
"Ellis Island, the Sad Side" by Robert Borsuk, and David Miller’s
"Take a Walk on the Boardwalk." Open Saturday, 11 a.m. to
5 p.m., and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. To June 23.
Solo exhibition of Sandra Nusblatt’s watercolors, "From Hopewell
to the Jersey Shore." Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To June 28.
Road, 609-921-3272. "The Art Connection" featuring recent
works by Barbara Caputi, Dorothy Freda, Lois Godfrey, Marion Salkind,
Kate Seitz, and Ingeburg Wurlzer. The artists have worked and exhibited
together for 20 years. In the main gallery to June 30.
In the Upstairs Galley: "Inner Visions," recent works by Manville
artist Connie Gray. To June 30. Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m.
to 3 p.m.; Sundays 1 to 4 p.m.
Suite 208, Morrisville, 215-295-8444. Taylor Photo Corporate Exhibition,
work by William Taylor and staff members of Taylor Photo in Princeton.
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. To July
Branch Station, 908-725-2110. "Artist to Artist: Berlin to New
Jersey," an exhibition of works by more than 25 artists of the
12 Months/12 Originals Printmaking Collective of Berlin, Germany,
and the Printmaking Council of New Jersey. Gallery hours are Wednesday
through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. To July 20.
Georges Road, South Brunswick, 732-524-3350. "Art Smart,"
an exhibit to celebrate artist-educators in South Brunswick with work
by visual artists Rajini Balachandran, Stephanie Barbetti, Michele
Eagle Diatlo, Steven Levine, Joan Mintz, Helen Post, and Maxwell W.
Nimeck, and by poets Edward Belding and Joyce Greenberg Lott. Curated
by Stacy Smith of the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University.
On view Fridays to Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m., to June 30.
609-737-7592. "A Gathering of Baskets," a show of baskets
woven by area artists. Exhibit runs to August 17.
Utilities Office, Route 130, just south of Route 33, 609-259-3502.
Fourth annual art exhibit selected by Terri McNichol, artist and teacher
at Mercer County Community College. To June 21.
annual members’ exhibition featuring recent paintings, drawings, and
sculpture. Open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To June 21.
Princeton Photography Club exhibit of both color and black-and-white
photography including nature photography, double exposures, still
life, landscapes, and portraits. In the main lobby, to June 14.
Ellarslie Open XX, the 20th annual Ellarslie juried exhibition, selected
by Anne Fabbri, founding director of the Noyes Museum and now director
of the Paley Design Center at Philadelphia University of the Arts.
Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday,
1 to 4 p.m. To June 16.
609-586-0616. Tenth Anniversary Year Spring Exhibition features artists
who have had one-person shows at Grounds for Sculpture over the past
decade. In the Domestic Arts Building: Richard Wright, photography.
Regular park admission $4 to $10. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10
a.m. to 9 p.m., year round; Sunday is Members Day. Adult admission
$4 Tuesday through Thursday; $7 Friday and Saturday; and $10 Sunday.
Annual memberships. Shows run to July 14.
Represented by one sculpture each, some created especially for the
anniversary show, are Magdalena Abakanowicz, Bill Barrett, James Dinerstein,
Leonda Finke, Red Grooms, William King, Wendy Lehman, Robert Lobe,
Marisol, Jeffrey Maron, Robert Murray, John Newman, Beverly Pepper,
Andrzej Pitynski, Robert Ressler, Michael Steiner, Dana Stewart, Strong-Cuevas,
Jay Wholley, and Isaac Witkin.
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