Indian art exhibition touches on many themes

The pieces come from the Shelley and Donald Rubin collection, focusing on a variety of topics and themes, including women, Indian home life and various religious figures from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain archetypes.
The pieces come from the Shelley and Donald Rubin collection, focusing on a variety of topics and themes, including women, Indian home life and various religious figures from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain archetypes.

By Katie Dougherty

Correspondent

Bright vibrant colors came to life for art enthusiasts during the “Goddess, Lion, Peasant, Priest: Modern and Contemporary Indian Art” exhibition on Friday, Oct. 19 in the Art and Interactive Multimedia Building. The exhibition was just one part of the all-day event celebrating various contemporary creative achievements by Indian artists.

Each piece of artwork in the exhibition came from the exclusive collection of Shelley and Donald Rubin who are the founders of the innovative Rubin Museum of Art located in New York City. The Rubin Museum of Art is home to numerous artistic works reflecting different cultural aspects of Himalayan Asia.

“The Goddess, Lion, Peasant, Priest: Modern and Contemporary Indian Art” exhibition interestingly separated artwork into three distinct categories and sections for viewers to walk through: Inhabited Spaces, Spiritual Bodies and Characters. The pieces within the Inhabited Spaces portion of the exhibition focused on Indian home life, along with the notion of memories and dreams created in the spaces of homes.

This section also included many women artists such as Gogi Saroj Pal and her acrylic 1992 painting “Untitled,” which features a woman gazing across a long sinuous river. The river is comprised of beautiful shades of blue and green wrapping around the woman’s arm like a bracelet as she sits in great contemplation. The pieces of the Inhabited Spaces section pay homage to Indian women and how they changed the course of Indian art.

The next section of the exhibition, Spiritual Bodies, incorporated artwork commemorating many religious figures from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain customs. Seema Kohli’s 2007 mixed media piece on canvas “Untitled,” which is featured on the posters and pamphlets for the exhibition, demonstrates feminine power with an image of a river goddess. The goddess’s body rises out from a makara, a mythological creature representing a mixture of diverse animal characteristics including alligator, elephant and fish.

Erin Chamberlin, a sophomore Art Education major and one of the the College’s art gallery staff, was very excited about the “Goddess, Lion, Peasant, Priest Indian Art” exhibition. This was her first time preparing for a professional art show and her enthusiasm radiated off her cheeks as she took in all of the lively pieces.

“I would say my favorite piece in the collection is the portrayal of death because the piece is so in your face,” Chamberlin said. “It definitely presents an interesting contrast from the rest of the pieces in the collection.”

The piece Erin Chamberlin was referring to was Bari Kumar’s 2002 oil painting, “Namaste America,” which portrays Death as a skeletal figure preparing to strike a blindfolded individual in the chest.

This somewhat unsettling image of Death represents Kumar’s idea of future America.

Characters, the third and final section of the exhibition, displayed artwork reflecting multiple aspects of Indian identities ranging among Hindu deities, musicians and artists.

Sadequain’s 1972 oil painting, “Man with Brush Head in Hand,” depicts a headless character clutching his or her own head. Sadequain’s image of decapitation is represented in many of his other works to demonstrate Saint Sarmad’s execution in Delhi during the 1600s, as well as the figurative separation of self through dismemberment.

“The Goddess, Lion, Peasant, Priest: Modern and Contemporary Indian Art” exhibition will remain on display in the AIMM Building through Dec. 16. For more information about the Shelley and Donald Rubin art collection visit the website: rmanyc.org.