Opaque Emblems @ Nature Morte, New Delhi

December 01, 2018


New Delhi: Nature Morteis currently showing Opaque Emblemswith works by Atul DodiyaSubodh GuptaLouise Lawler,Isamu NoguchiDayanita SinghHiroshi Sugimoto(November 23 to January 5, 2019).

Of all the revolutions of the 20th Century, none has been more profound to art and artists than that initiated by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) with his invention of the Readymade. Previously, Duchamp had been making paintings and collages, but in 1917 he purchased a common ceramic urinal in a hardware store, turned it on its side, placed it on a pedestal, and signed it, declaring it a “work of art.” The ramifications are still reverberating one hundred and one years later. 

The artists in our exhibition include painters, sculptors and photographers, but all have extended and elaborated on the Readymade and its implications through their art. While the Readymade undermined conventional modes of representation, it certainly has not stifled the creation of art in any way. In fact, because of it, the field of “art” is more open, fluid and expansive today. All of the artists in our exhibition employ pre-existing objects and images for personal and ambiguous references, often re-cycling signature elements repeatedly. 

Well-known as a painter, Atul Dodiya (Indian, born 1959) also verges into the terrain of sculpture by creating cabinets of curiosities. The two works on view are part of a larger series entitled “7000 Museums” created for a show at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai in 2014. Dodiya collected a range of found objects and combined them with his own photographs shot in museums around the world, as well as facsimile art works by famous artists (such as On Kawara and Lucio Fontana). He conflates and confuses the role of the artist with those of the curator and the collector, questioning systems of museum categories and how value is ascribed to objects. On the back of each cabinet hangs a large watercolor by Dodiya of a poem by Arun Kolatkar, from his “Kala Ghoda” series. The artist chose these specifically because they are about the part of Mumbai known for its art galleries and artists’ hangouts, extending the Readymade to include literary works.

Subodh Gupta (Indian, born 1964) developed a language of sculpture at the end of the 1990s based entirely on the Readymade and its development in the Indian context. Most of the objects he chooses to work with highlight the socio-political tensions taking place in India in the past twenty years, yet he never shies away from exploiting the bravura of the materials he works with. For this show, we highlight his oscillation between sculpture and painting, his works often straddling the definitions of the two mediums, as in his work that incorporates what look like real mangoes. In fact, these are mangoes that have been cast in bronze and then painted in oils, effectively being both a painting and a sculpture at the same time, blurring the distinction between realism and abstraction. Most recently, the artist’s retrospective exhibition entitled “Ada” appeared at La Monnaie Museum, Paris in 2018.

Louise Lawler (American, born 1947) developed her practice, which is primarily photographic but also veers into site-specific installations and sculptural ephemera, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, associated with what has become known as the “Pictures Generation” of artists. Her signature works are what she calls “pictures of arrangements of pictures” and investigate the complicated life of art works after they leave the artists’ studios and enter the spheres of exhibition, commerce, connoisseurship, decoration, and even storage. On display will be two works from her most recent series of “Traced Works,” these being line-drawings derived from some of her most well-known photographs of art works in situ. The final scale of these, as transparent vinyls mounted directly on to the wall, are determined by the site chosen for their display by either the curator or the collector. Most recently, the Museum of Modern Art in New York organized a retrospective of Lawler’s work entitled “Why Pictures Now” in 2017.

Isamu Noguchi (American, 1904-1988) is one of the major artists of the 20th Century, whose artistic career spanned six decades. Primarily known for sculpture and public works, he also designed stage sets and mass-produced lamps and furniture. His father was a Japanese poet and his mother an American writer and as he grew up in both the United States and Japan, his aesthetic bridges the two cultures and can be seen today as a forerunner of a globalized artistic practice. On view in our exhibition will be three photographs shot by Noguchi himself while traveling the world on a Bollingen Fellowship in the late 1940s and early 1950s, two shot in Manipur in India and one in Indonesia. Though not art works in themselves, the photographs act as documents of common objects that attracted Noguchi’s attention and informed his sculpture. The photographs have been loaned by The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in New York.

The art of Dayanita Singh (Indian, born 1961) uses photography to reflect and expand on the ways we relate to photographic images. Her primary format is the book, and the ways in which she envisions new forms of books and how photographs are distributed to and viewed by an audience. In our exhibition will be examples from two separate bodies of work. “Time Measures” (2016) are photographs of bundles of official papers, bound in red cloths that have faded with time. A traditional Indian method of keeping records, these bundles are an off-shoot of a larger project that she has been involved with for years: documenting “File Rooms” in government offices throughout India. The photograph becomes a Readymade document, three-dimensions are rendered as two, and the found object functions as an image. Also on view will be works from Singh’s most recent body of works in which black-and-white photographs have been mounted on to aluminum and given a thin coating of an ash grey colored paint. This simple process radically transforms both the object and the image, obscuring the picture under a viscous skin and opening up a startling number of references and revelations. Most recently, Singh’s works have been included in the 57th Carnegie International, Pittsburg (2018) and the 15th Istanbul Biennale (2017).

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) is primarily known as a photographer but also works as an architect. His subjects range from seascapes, museum dioramas, architecture, fashion, and movie theatres. He is one of the pioneers of a Post-Modern school of photography which questioned the supposed veracity of the photographic image, acknowledging that the camera can be tricked and deceived. On view will be an example from his “Mechanical Forms” series (2004), images of industrial tools used to illustrate basic movements of machinery, directly inspired by Marcel Duchamp and his work “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass),” created between 1915 and 1923. Solo shows of Sugimoto’s works have been mounted at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; and the Serpentine Gallery, London, among others.

Atul Dodiya, Cabinet #2