Arario Gallery Seoul presents Middle Class Dreams, the first solo exhibition in Korea of Indian-born artists Thukral & Tagra (T&T), from October 21st to November 21st, 2010.
With early experiences as Communication designers in an advertising firm, the duo T&T consisting of Indian-born artists Jiten Thukral (b. 1976) and Sumir Tagra (b. 1979) have been unfolding an active artistic career working comprehensively in a wide variety of genres including painting, sculpture, fashion, product design, interior design and graphic design. Their works are distinctive in that they go beyond referencing each genre, to applying a specific genre to fulfill a variety of purposes and functions under the name T&T. While T&T’s works draw in the viewer with their use of bright vigorous colors, neat exquisite images, repetitive pattern and pop culture references, they also reflect India’s desires for social prosperity and dynamic economic changes in its rapid development, and assume a critical stance on India’s issues of excessive consumerism and urban-centric tendencies.
The title of this exhibition The Middle Class Dreams directly references the Punjabi class (from Punjab, an area straddling the border between India and Pakistan). The locals here witness a change in the quality of life by the day, as neatly paved roads and establishments catering to all types of businesses and consumerism are entering the region; accordingly, their purpose and aspirations in life are also shifting, just as rapidly. Punjab region is also renowned for its great number of emigrants who leave home to start a new life in the West, in places like Canada, America and Europe. Simply put, Punjab region is where the hopes for a better life is actualized, as evidenced by a large number of people migrating out of the region. The unique Punjab culture is imbued with both the desires for changes in the future, as well as a sense of loss for the past. The term ‘middle class’ has twofold undertones in its meaning, as it is both an indication of the social economic class as well as an objective of the residents in the region. No other words can define one’s social status as ambiguously as the term ‘middle class’. To both the upper and the lower class, the middle class possesses all the fundamental elements for a realistic and comfortable life, with their economic freedom, convenience as an anonymous status, and their neutral yet opportunistic attitude towards the problems of class. On the other hand, middle class longs to merge into the upper class while demanding an effecting severance from the lower class. The middle class thus signifies a social status that wishes to distinguish itself yet is too ambiguous to be classified.
The works in this exhibition can largely be divided under two themes. Exhibited on the first floor, Escape! (Domestic Setting) series is an installation of paintings that depict nice floating houses, along with the artist’s signature-style kitschy walls ornamented in blue Gingham Check and baroque furniture. Meaning ‘master of the air’, one of the paintings titled Dominus Aeris depicts the middle class city dwellers’ desires for better quality of life. Houses are the definitive signifiers of the present quality of life in any country. The desires for a comfortable life that’s loftier and more beautiful, are illustrated through the design and structure of the houses the artists term ‘Punjabi Baroque’. Meanwhile, the figures of baby angels, similar to the putti that frequently appear in Italian renaissance art, or the Gingham Check that wraps around the walls, all suggest the value the middle class places on children’s education and upbringing. Many of them choose to immigrate to another country to provide better education and environment for their children. If the houses signify the middle class of today, the upbringing and education for their children signify their future.
Installed on the 2nd floor of the gallery, Bosedk series offers a different perspective on modern patterns of consumerism and popular culture. A derogatory Punjabi term referring to the female genitals, this series of paintings of everyday ready-made items present a look on artificial life drenched in consumerism.
Having emerged as a duo in 2003, T&T are the most internationally celebrated Indian artists born in the 70s. They received world-wide attention through their solo shows at New Deli’s Nature Morte in 2005 and 2007 and at New York’s Bose Pacia in 2007, as well as through the presentation of their artist statement at Art Basel in 2007. They established themselves as India’s most distinguished new artist group through their participation in Frieze 2009 in 2009 and Australia’s Asia Pacific Triennale 6. They received great recognition and publicity through various media when they were invited as main guest artists in the large-scale exhibition of Contemporary Indian Art titled Chalo India held at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, which was followed by a tour in 2009 to National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea and Essl Museum in Venice. An exhibition of their work is currently being held at the STPI (Singapore Tyler Print Institute), and they will be holding their solo exhibition at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing this coming November through collaboration with Arario Gallery.