How to sum up a year in art? Rather than tackle the impossible single-handedly, I review the year by sampling the voices of my fantastic ArtSlant authors in a montage of some of the past year’s memorable moments. So here’s to 2010, brought to you by ArtSlant India.
2010 has been a year of debuts—some monumental, and others intimate but no less intelligently conceived. Anish Kapoor had his long awaited homecoming at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi. As Manjari Kaul remarked: “Somewhere in the making of these gaps and gashes on land and other surfaces there is perhaps a search for the centre, as in Kapoor's mirrors that dupe and bewilder the naked eye.” Avni Doshi was no less impressed by Simryn Gill’s India début at the private experimental space of Amrita Jhaveri, of which she wrote: “the result is a compulsive, perhaps even ritualistic, reimagining of how we understand little pearls of wisdom.”
In an art scene traditionally dominated by painting, I was impressed at how much stimulating photography was around and about this past year. Old classics figured into the year’s offerings, such as retrospectives by Raghu Rai, and Richard and Pablo Bartholomew, all in Kolkatta. Of the last exhibition, Paroma Maiti exclaimed: “One could say that while others were busy capturing the exotic as fashionable, Pablo concentrated on capturing the fashionable itself!” New classics also made their mark on the scene, such as the latest body of work by Dayanita Sing, reviewed by Natasha Baruah who wrote: “’Dream Villa,’ Dayanita’s latest body of works, is premised on the phenomenon of darkness in the urban night. Or, more specifically, the absence of it.”
The avant-garde envelope was pushed by the growing presence of video art, such as the young hip Shrine Empire Gallery’s show, “Don’t Hurry, Don’t Worry” featuring candid footage sequences assembled by Gautam Kanasara. Sound art was a similarly growing presence on the scene. As Baruah wrote about a show of Navin Thomas up at Bangalore’s SKE gallery: “Navin’s works have given me my first taste of good sound art, and left me hungering for more. Working with salvaged electronic junk, the artist incorporates found objects into his pieces such as local PCO telephones, a reconfigured hatbox, wooden chairs redone with copper wirings and even a PA horn from a mosque.” Performance art has also had a strong showing, perhaps most memorably executed in the multiple 2010 happenings undertaken by Nikhil Chopra. As Doshi recalled of the artist’s Chatterjee and Lal performance entitled “Drum Solo,” “The gallery was completely blacked-out, with spotlights shining in the middle of the room onto a shiny drum set and the solitary drummer. Chopra concentrated on the instrument before him, even playfully readjusting the cheeky snare drum that continuously inched away.”
Yet not all the show stoppers this year were of Indian origin. Unlike the majority of other Indian art news and review sources, ArtSlant India doesn’t cover just Indian artists, but covers the art scene in India. As it turns out, 2010 has been a great year for foreign artists showing in the country. A few memorable exhibitions covered by our team were Sigmar Polke’s retrospective at the Center for International Modern Art in Kolkatta, of which Maiti wrote: “Despite the sweltering heat, April has not been so cruel to Calcutta after all. Some of the best works of the legendary Sigmar Polke are showing at the CIMA Art Gallery… the show affords Calcutta the opportunity to view from up-close, not just Polke’s art, but also the politics that he either sought to promote or counter through his works.” Perhaps less legendary but no less interesting was the work of German photographer Karen Knorr, shown by Bangalore’s Tasveer gallery. Baruah reviewed the show, remarking: “In Karen Knorr’s works, the animals aren’t there to point out the weaknesses of human character. Instead, their presence in the domain of museum space highlights the distance between the two worlds: raw nature on one hand and a cultural site on the other which allows nature’s entry only in the form of representation.”
Some of the year’s most exciting work has taken place outside the purview of the gallery space altogether. In particular, the ambitious undertakings of Art Karavan must be noted. Alana Hunt followed the adventure through many of its exotic peregrinations, and sent ArtSlant back a rollicking three-part report. She wrote: “The Karavan was full of chaos, with Inder (the mad artist I knew) donning the hat of an administrator and trying to balance it all on a very, very fine line. As art (and emotions) ran in all directions, the Karavan could not at all be described as a smooth ride – but, as London-based critic Claire Bishop would argue, such antagonisms are, for the better, all a part of the experience.” Himali Singh Soin was particularly sensitive to the non-institutionalized wonders of the aesthetic world in 2010. She addressed an art-behind-bars initiative, Pakistani truck-art inspired handicrafts, and my personal favorite, Commonwealth Games graffiti, writing “An aggressive agitation bleeds onto the crumbling cement walls of Delhi as pockets of anonymous groups form to publicly subvert—with text—the text that adorns our new, "cleansed" city.
Finally, the year has been an exciting one for all of our writers at ArtSlant. Most of them have their latest and greatest art world endeavors listed on their profile page, but here I can give just a taste of what a couple have been up to: Himali Singh Soin had a couple of photo exhibitions showing in Delhi this year, and as Natasha Baruah remarked, “a sense of pure and uninhibited spontaneity binds these varied images together, as they conform to no particular region or area, and instead migrate here from diverse corners of Mexico, the U.S., Mongolia, India, and other far-flung locales.” Soin herself recounted the adventures of installing her own show, writing “4am: I am now dreaming of my technologically inept self trying to remove the frame and extract the fly from the keyhole of the door on my photograph.” Doshi also published a process piece about the many hats that an art professional often wears: “Over the past year my own journey has involved interviewing artists in and around their studios—a process that I’m finding offers a very unique window into the diversity of individuals’ artistic practices.” In response to this piece, entitled “Writer as Curator: Reflection on Process,” an ArtSlant reader called ‘Maczoos’ commented: “Awaiting your first. When do we see one of your shows?” Well, Maczoos—Avni’s curatorial début is just around the corner. Keep an eye out for “The Pill” at Latitude 28 in January 2011! What a better way to forge ahead with a new decade?
-- Sophia Powers
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