The Remarkable Depth and Variety of India’s Modern Art, now at DAG Modern in New York

Jun 2, 2016 6:06PM

At DAG Modern’s New York location, the paintings and sculptures in “Masterpieces of Indian Modern Art” run the gamut from abstract to representational and somewhere in between. The show celebrates not just the one-year anniversary of the gallery’s New York space, but also the remarkable richness and depth of Indian modern art.

The show will prove especially eye-opening for those less familiar with the shape modernism took in India, a country the West has a tendency to exoticize and dissociate from the larger art world. Nevertheless, these works from 10-plus artists demonstrate the diversity of art-making practices in India while, on a grander scale, also providing a sense of what was happening beyond the established centers of modernism.

Take Maqbool Fida Husain, considered by some to be the Picasso of India. In Devi I (1961), two distinct figures and one shadowy form appear against an expressively rendered background of clay-colored brushstrokes. Their masklike faces and blocky bodies suggest European modernism filtered through an Indian aesthetic. In such works, Husain proposed a new form of modern Indian art for his recently freed, postcolonial nation.

Syed Haider Raza, another prominent figure in the development of Indian modernism, is known for his abstract paintings centered on geometric shapes, especially the circle or dot. Jala Bindu (1988) reflects his training in France and his interest in geometric abstraction, merged with his devotion to the religious and cultural traditions of his own country. The circles and dots that appear in this and other paintings evoke the bindu, a profound symbol of origin and creation.

Like Raza and Husain, Avinash Chandra merged Western and Indian cultural and artistic traditions. The show includes one of his early works, Untitled (House in the Forest) (circa 1950), which pulls viewers into a remote forest and leaves them eager to explore the expansive scene.

—Karen Kedmey

Masterpieces of Indian Modern Art” is on view at DAG Modern, New York, Mar. 4–Jun. 4, 2016.

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