Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bose Krishnamachari's Relative VisA

For years, curators were unkind to Bose Krishnamachari. He was excluded from shows like Century City at the Tate Modern for which he should have been an automatic selection. No artist better interpreted the changes in Bombay in the 1990s, but political blinkers prevented curators from comprehending his achievement. As a sort of response to such rejection, Bose mounted a show called De-Curation in which he drew a personal canon of Indian artists. He then turned curator-impressario himself, employing an excellent eye and open mind to spotlight new and established talent. He's recently received a major international curatorial assignment in the form of the Panorama: India section at Madrid's ARCO art fair which opens next week.
Back in India, he's put together Relative VisA, currently on view across Bodhi's two galleries in Bombay. The idea is to bring art, architecture and design in dialogue with each other, something Bose has done quite a bit in his own work. The Wadibunder space has the more interesting selection, though the quality is patchy. Neither Gulam Sheikh nor Rimzon are in top form, and Gargi Raina offers a cabinet stacked with fabric that makes you feel you've stepped into a branch of Fabindia. Sujit S N's painting appears rather derivative of N S Harsha. Nataraj Sharma and Manish Nai make a satisfactory pairing, the former represented by large-format drawings carried over from his recent show at Bodhi, and Nai providing new elaborations of his characteristic pattern-cut-into-jute style. Nuru Karim's listening pod crafted seamlessly from Corian is the most striking of the architects' contributions.
For me, the high point of Relative VisA is the room given over to Charmi Gada Shah's photographs and sculpture. I hadn't seen her work before and was very impressed by its conceptual and formal rigour. She's shot the front of an old, partially-demolished building, then built a model of this facade and, aside from exhibiting it in the room, has photographed the model placed against other parts of the same or similar buildings, playing with scale and with notions of memory, destruction and conservation.
The best thing about Bose's shows is that they invariably throw up interesting new voices like Gada Shah.
The portion of Relative VisA on view at Bodhi's Kala Ghoda gallery (Bara Bhaskaran, Gayatri Subramainyan, Shankar Natarajan and K M Madhusudhanan) seems pretty dull. Perhaps my mind was clouded by the toxic fumes that filled the space on opening night: painting of specially constructed walls had been completed only at the last minute. I'll take another look in a day or two and, should I find something noteworthy, will add a few extra lines to this post.

9 comments:

DS said...

I went to both spaces a day after the opening and wondered if actually it was the day before. At space, the video work was dismantled, Anants work lay in a corner, dumped on some foam and there was painting going on at both places and more civil workers than visitors. Tho at Bodhi KG there seemed to be a student adda session going on as well.

Bose always throws up something that one can have an opinion about, he isnt interested in walking the safe line and even tho one may not agree with the whole you always come away with a thought, idea , new artist that sticks in the mind.

Liked the Charmi Gada Shah work , liked it some months ago when I first saw it on a friends screen and even discussed it and was glad to see it here. Liked the MAnish NAi works and the Scaria photographs and found the Natraj works in comparison boring and really flat. Didnt know what to make ofthe moulded furniture piece, seemed now commonplace if design and as fine art...? Rimzons work did not fit in and agree totally on Sujith's work being remniscent of HArsha.

I wouldnt go back to Bodhi KG.

Girish Shahane said...

It was pretty disorganised on opening day too. It took me back to some of Bose's past solos when works weren't ready and stuff. In this case, though, he probably wasn't to blame.
I totally agree about what's good about his shows and what's not. They don't necessarily cohere and there's never a proper curatorial argument advanced through a catalogue or wall text, but one never comes away saying 'same old, same old'. Which is unusual.
I liked Gigi Scaria's pics as well, he's improved considerably as a photographer.

DS said...

Girish, there usually is a catalogue, 3-4 months down the line.... which actually doesn't leave room for argument as the show is long gone!

Girish Shahane said...

Yes there are catalogues, but as far as I remember, there isn't much of a curatorial argument in them. I don't blame Bose for that. He's not a writer, and he correctly criticises us literary types for being over-concerned with ideas at the expense of the way shows look.
Ideally, of course, one would want both: an exhibition that is has interesting work and choice of artists; and is also backed by a strong, well-researched and thoroughly argued concept. Can't remember the last time I saw one of those in Bombay.

DS said...

Touche!

torntash said...

I was very excited when I first saw images of Charmi's work and then was left absolutely cold when she explained them to me: it all came out too pat/rehearsed. The ideas are not new and the experience of meeting her reminded me of doing studio visits in Pakistan where the wholesale lifting of previously executed work is standard practice. Looking at the portfolios of young artists is a minefield presently since access to global art is so ubiquitous and, consequently, the act of lifting ideas (consciously or otherwise)follows naturally. Galleries, curators and critics need to keep on their toes.

Girish Shahane said...

Glad you pointed this out, Torntash. Would greatly appreciate leads on exactly where she borrows from. Certainly, the concept behind her work has no culture specificity, so I did wonder if she was over-influenced by a couple of artists she had seen in England whose work I was unfamiliar with.
Also happy to hear you liked her stuff at first sight. That formal control is obviously indicative of some talent: I've seen a lot of artists who not only do derivative work but do it badly.

torntash said...

For me Rachel Whiteread's work hovers as the conceptual mother-ship over Charmi's entire output.

Girish Shahane said...

Hmm, I know Rachel Whiteread's work quite well and, while I saw a connection between Charmi Shah's work and hers, I didn't think it was particularly strong.
Still, maybe there are other artists who have also influenced her, less famous than Whiteread. I'll keep an open mind for now.