Page 1


A modern formation?

A modern formation?

magazine published in 1960, Krishen Khanna had remarked on the importance of foreign support networks: “It is one of those ironies that recognition to modern painters should come from outside. Critics in England, Japan, America, France and Brazil have been able to recognize a valid body of Modern Indian Art, whilst in one way or another our official academies and institutions have either totally ignored or succeeded in driving away our modern painters.”16 Indian artists regularly participated in exhibitions such as the Tokyo and São Paulo biennials. But it is rarely remarked that at the height of the military dictatorship MF Husain’s solo show at the 11th São Paulo Biennial coincided with the boycott of the exhibition by many Brazilian artists.17 In effect, the participation of Indian artists in exhibitions of the South was not devoid of contradictions. The 1960s also marked a significant upgrading of India on the international exhibition circuit. In 1967 “Two Decades of American Painting”, held at the Lalit Kala Akademi, was a test case for American art. It presented 97 works by 35 artists and also travelled to Japan and Australia. The selection made by Waldo Rasmussen, MoMA’s executive director of circulating exhibitions, was accompanied by Clement Greenberg, and was the first presentation on this scale of American art in India. It went far beyond Abstract Expressionism, including only one work by Jackson Pollock as the bulk of his paintings had stayed behind in New York for a retrospective exhibition. The show encompassed four works from Josef Albers’s Homage to the Square series (all 1966), Jasper Johns’s White Flag monochrome (1955), Robert Rauschenberg’s Crocus silkscreen (1962) and Allegory assemblage (1959–60), Cy Twombly’s The Italians (1961), Andy Warhol’s Electric Chairs (1964), Willem de Kooning’s Woman VI (1953), as well as works by Philip Guston, Frank Stella, Mark Rothko and several other prominent American artists.

Richard Bartholomew, Rati and Pablo Reading, New Delhi, 1964.

Catalogue of “Two Decades of American Painting”, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1967.

“The Family of Man”, Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay. Travelling exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art, 18 June–15 July 1956.

Though “Two Decades of American Painting” received mixed reviews and only 123 to 475 visitors per day,18 it caused a minor sensation in the Indian art world. Greenberg openly disagreed with aspects of the selection. For instance, he criticized de Kooning’s Woman series and drew a direct connection between its gestural brush stroke and Indian painting, on which he took a mostly unflattering view.19 At the exhibition symposium he lambasted the spiritual interpretation of Indian modern art and stated that “traditional Indian pictorial art died 100 years ago.”20 According to him Indian modern painting could not resort to any spiritual explanation that hinged on India’s past heritage. This statement was diametrically opposed to the idea favoured since the beginning of the 20th century that modern figural Indian painting stretched back to the cave murals of Ajanta. At a time when Indian artists were experimenting with abstraction, pitching his conception of American modernism should not have been that difficult. Instead, Greenberg made a normative statement, and a deliberatively provocative one. Most importantly, the exhibition opened in March 1967 amidst heightened suspicion of US-backed activities in India following the uncovering of CIA sponsorship of the Asia Foundation. But, as was the case in Europe with “New American Painting” and “Jackson Pollock 1912–1956”, two MoMA exhibitions that travelled the continent in the 1950s, “Two Decades of American Painting” and Ritchie’s adjunct film programme would never have taken place without the support of its Indian host

16 Krishen Khanna, “Indian-ness”, Seminar 16 (1960), 25. 17 On the boycott of the 10th and 11th São Paulo biennials see Francisco Alambert & Polyana Canhête, As Bienais de São Paulo, da era do Museu à era dos curadores, 1951–2001 (São Paulo: Boitempo Editorial, 2004), 124–36.

52

18 Lelyveld, “Modern US Art Stirs New Delhi”, The New York Times (11 April 1967). 19 “Symposium on Art”, Link (9 April 1967), 39–40. See also VII.SP-ICE-30-62.4 (MoMA Archives). 20 Lelyveld, “Modern US Art Stirs New Delhi”.

“Two Decades of American Painting 1945–1965” exhibition, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. Organized by the International Program, MoMA, 25 March –15 April 1967.

Waldo Rasmussen with visitors to “Two Decades of American Painting” exhibition.


A modern formation?

A modern formation?

magazine published in 1960, Krishen Khanna had remarked on the importance of foreign support networks: “It is one of those ironies that recognition to modern painters should come from outside. Critics in England, Japan, America, France and Brazil have been able to recognize a valid body of Modern Indian Art, whilst in one way or another our official academies and institutions have either totally ignored or succeeded in driving away our modern painters.”16 Indian artists regularly participated in exhibitions such as the Tokyo and São Paulo biennials. But it is rarely remarked that at the height of the military dictatorship MF Husain’s solo show at the 11th São Paulo Biennial coincided with the boycott of the exhibition by many Brazilian artists.17 In effect, the participation of Indian artists in exhibitions of the South was not devoid of contradictions. The 1960s also marked a significant upgrading of India on the international exhibition circuit. In 1967 “Two Decades of American Painting”, held at the Lalit Kala Akademi, was a test case for American art. It presented 97 works by 35 artists and also travelled to Japan and Australia. The selection made by Waldo Rasmussen, MoMA’s executive director of circulating exhibitions, was accompanied by Clement Greenberg, and was the first presentation on this scale of American art in India. It went far beyond Abstract Expressionism, including only one work by Jackson Pollock as the bulk of his paintings had stayed behind in New York for a retrospective exhibition. The show encompassed four works from Josef Albers’s Homage to the Square series (all 1966), Jasper Johns’s White Flag monochrome (1955), Robert Rauschenberg’s Crocus silkscreen (1962) and Allegory assemblage (1959–60), Cy Twombly’s The Italians (1961), Andy Warhol’s Electric Chairs (1964), Willem de Kooning’s Woman VI (1953), as well as works by Philip Guston, Frank Stella, Mark Rothko and several other prominent American artists.

Richard Bartholomew, Rati and Pablo Reading, New Delhi, 1964.

Catalogue of “Two Decades of American Painting”, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1967.

“The Family of Man”, Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay. Travelling exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art, 18 June–15 July 1956.

Though “Two Decades of American Painting” received mixed reviews and only 123 to 475 visitors per day,18 it caused a minor sensation in the Indian art world. Greenberg openly disagreed with aspects of the selection. For instance, he criticized de Kooning’s Woman series and drew a direct connection between its gestural brush stroke and Indian painting, on which he took a mostly unflattering view.19 At the exhibition symposium he lambasted the spiritual interpretation of Indian modern art and stated that “traditional Indian pictorial art died 100 years ago.”20 According to him Indian modern painting could not resort to any spiritual explanation that hinged on India’s past heritage. This statement was diametrically opposed to the idea favoured since the beginning of the 20th century that modern figural Indian painting stretched back to the cave murals of Ajanta. At a time when Indian artists were experimenting with abstraction, pitching his conception of American modernism should not have been that difficult. Instead, Greenberg made a normative statement, and a deliberatively provocative one. Most importantly, the exhibition opened in March 1967 amidst heightened suspicion of US-backed activities in India following the uncovering of CIA sponsorship of the Asia Foundation. But, as was the case in Europe with “New American Painting” and “Jackson Pollock 1912–1956”, two MoMA exhibitions that travelled the continent in the 1950s, “Two Decades of American Painting” and Ritchie’s adjunct film programme would never have taken place without the support of its Indian host

16 Krishen Khanna, “Indian-ness”, Seminar 16 (1960), 25. 17 On the boycott of the 10th and 11th São Paulo biennials see Francisco Alambert & Polyana Canhête, As Bienais de São Paulo, da era do Museu à era dos curadores, 1951–2001 (São Paulo: Boitempo Editorial, 2004), 124–36.

52

18 Lelyveld, “Modern US Art Stirs New Delhi”, The New York Times (11 April 1967). 19 “Symposium on Art”, Link (9 April 1967), 39–40. See also VII.SP-ICE-30-62.4 (MoMA Archives). 20 Lelyveld, “Modern US Art Stirs New Delhi”.

“Two Decades of American Painting 1945–1965” exhibition, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. Organized by the International Program, MoMA, 25 March –15 April 1967.

Waldo Rasmussen with visitors to “Two Decades of American Painting” exhibition.


Charles and Ray Eames in India

Charles and Ray Eames in India

simple “for Nehru/Gandhi’s sake” – an assumption that collapsed the notorious gulf between the two leaders on the question of technology – while also mounting a large installation about “Indian weddings” in the history wall recording Nehru’s marriage.37 Here the Eameses, surrendering to the seductions of an anthropological gaze, seemed unable to contain their fascination with the exotic rituals of an Indian wedding. In hindsight, it is additionally meaningful that in 1965 the Eameses’ Nehru memorial exhibition in New York did not find a home at MoMA. It was mounted instead in the Union Carbide building on Park Avenue from January to March 1965. The Eameses’ exhibition was undoubtedly a public-relations coup for Union Carbide, the American corporation that had recently joined India’s government-sponsored “green revolution” by establishing fertilizer factories throughout the country. Needless to say, public relations would never again be the same for the company after the disastrous 1984 accident at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, in which five tons of toxic gas seeped out of the plant in a 30-minute period, killing almost 4,000 people and permanently injuring tens of thousands more. While much more can be said about this catastrophe – widely regarded as the worst industrial accident in history – it symbolizes for our purposes the ever-widening gulf between the modernizing ideals of the Nehruvian era and the realities unfolding on the ground in India. The Eameses could not have anticipated that Union Carbide would come to stand for the most devastating aspects of industrialization and

37 Charles Eames, personal note (January 1972), Eames Papers (Washington, DC: Library of Congress), box 46, folder 2.

the Indo-American relationship, nor that the Nehruvian dream enshrined in their memorial exhibition might lead to the nightmare of Union Carbide in Bhopal. Indeed, the couple seemed too distracted by the task of commemoration to view the signs of crisis that emerged in the wake of Nehru’s death. Indira Gandhi, for her part, sought refuge in her study, where she was reportedly found during this period “curled up in her Eames chair”.38 It is important therefore to further situate the late 1960s and 1970s in India in order to understand and critically assess why the Eameses’ hopes for the country remain largely unrealized and how their liberal vision of industrial design has, paradoxically, re-emerged in recent years to serve the needs and desires of India’s neo-liberal turn. The period following Nehru’s death was marked by a growing disaffection with the dreams of official modernization as a result of the failure of his economic plans, the increases in population, poverty and illiteracy, and the rise of student movements in solidarity with the 1968 generation in Europe and America. Artists and intellectuals in South Asia were particularly disillusioned by the continued catastrophic effects of partition in former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and, eventually, the crisis of the 1975–77 Emergency, when Indira Gandhi announced that such stringent measures as the suspension of democratic rights must be taken “just as bitter pills … administered to a patient in the interest of his health”.39 In 1970 JS Sandhu, an early advocate of “inclusive design”, wrote to Charles 38 Jayakar, op. cit. 184. The Eames chair remains on display in the Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum, housed in what was once the prime minister’s official residence in New Delhi. 39 Indira Gandhi, quoted in Tarlow, op. cit. 25.

The NID prepares for the Nehru exhibition, 1965.

Charles Eames rests. Nehru exhibition, Los Angeles, 1966. Nehru exhibition catalogue. New York, 1965.

The Nehru wedding installation at the memorial exhibition, 1965.

Nehru exhibition “history walls”, 1965.

Charles Eames (centre). Nehru exhibition, Union Carbide building, New York, 1965.


Charles and Ray Eames in India

Charles and Ray Eames in India

simple “for Nehru/Gandhi’s sake” – an assumption that collapsed the notorious gulf between the two leaders on the question of technology – while also mounting a large installation about “Indian weddings” in the history wall recording Nehru’s marriage.37 Here the Eameses, surrendering to the seductions of an anthropological gaze, seemed unable to contain their fascination with the exotic rituals of an Indian wedding. In hindsight, it is additionally meaningful that in 1965 the Eameses’ Nehru memorial exhibition in New York did not find a home at MoMA. It was mounted instead in the Union Carbide building on Park Avenue from January to March 1965. The Eameses’ exhibition was undoubtedly a public-relations coup for Union Carbide, the American corporation that had recently joined India’s government-sponsored “green revolution” by establishing fertilizer factories throughout the country. Needless to say, public relations would never again be the same for the company after the disastrous 1984 accident at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, in which five tons of toxic gas seeped out of the plant in a 30-minute period, killing almost 4,000 people and permanently injuring tens of thousands more. While much more can be said about this catastrophe – widely regarded as the worst industrial accident in history – it symbolizes for our purposes the ever-widening gulf between the modernizing ideals of the Nehruvian era and the realities unfolding on the ground in India. The Eameses could not have anticipated that Union Carbide would come to stand for the most devastating aspects of industrialization and

37 Charles Eames, personal note (January 1972), Eames Papers (Washington, DC: Library of Congress), box 46, folder 2.

the Indo-American relationship, nor that the Nehruvian dream enshrined in their memorial exhibition might lead to the nightmare of Union Carbide in Bhopal. Indeed, the couple seemed too distracted by the task of commemoration to view the signs of crisis that emerged in the wake of Nehru’s death. Indira Gandhi, for her part, sought refuge in her study, where she was reportedly found during this period “curled up in her Eames chair”.38 It is important therefore to further situate the late 1960s and 1970s in India in order to understand and critically assess why the Eameses’ hopes for the country remain largely unrealized and how their liberal vision of industrial design has, paradoxically, re-emerged in recent years to serve the needs and desires of India’s neo-liberal turn. The period following Nehru’s death was marked by a growing disaffection with the dreams of official modernization as a result of the failure of his economic plans, the increases in population, poverty and illiteracy, and the rise of student movements in solidarity with the 1968 generation in Europe and America. Artists and intellectuals in South Asia were particularly disillusioned by the continued catastrophic effects of partition in former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and, eventually, the crisis of the 1975–77 Emergency, when Indira Gandhi announced that such stringent measures as the suspension of democratic rights must be taken “just as bitter pills … administered to a patient in the interest of his health”.39 In 1970 JS Sandhu, an early advocate of “inclusive design”, wrote to Charles 38 Jayakar, op. cit. 184. The Eames chair remains on display in the Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum, housed in what was once the prime minister’s official residence in New Delhi. 39 Indira Gandhi, quoted in Tarlow, op. cit. 25.

The NID prepares for the Nehru exhibition, 1965.

Charles Eames rests. Nehru exhibition, Los Angeles, 1966. Nehru exhibition catalogue. New York, 1965.

The Nehru wedding installation at the memorial exhibition, 1965.

Nehru exhibition “history walls”, 1965.

Charles Eames (centre). Nehru exhibition, Union Carbide building, New York, 1965.


John Baldessari

John Baldessari 5

3

6

4 3 Street Scene (with Blue Intrusion) and Single Leaf (Green), 1992. Black-andwhite photographs, colour photographs, acrylic, photocopy on Gandhi Ashram paper, acrylic wash, paper stickers, crayon, oil enamel on rubber, oil enamel on Formicamounted masonite, acrylic on board. 238.76 × 323.85 cm. 4 Landscape/Street Scene (with Yellow and Blue Intrusions, One Deteriorating), 1992. Colour photographs, oil enamel on rubber, oil enamel on Formica-mounted masonite, acrylic on board. 139.7 × 350.52 cm.

146

147

5 Street Scene (with White) Intrusion/Single Leaf (Yellow), 1992. Colour photographs, acrylic, photocopy on Gandhi Ashram paper, acrylic wash, paper stickers, crayon, oil enamel on rubber. 254 × 87 cm. 6 Street Scene/Leaning Woman, 1992. Colour photographs, oil enamel on rubber. 96.52 × 63.5 cm.


John Baldessari

John Baldessari 5

3

6

4 3 Street Scene (with Blue Intrusion) and Single Leaf (Green), 1992. Black-andwhite photographs, colour photographs, acrylic, photocopy on Gandhi Ashram paper, acrylic wash, paper stickers, crayon, oil enamel on rubber, oil enamel on Formicamounted masonite, acrylic on board. 238.76 × 323.85 cm. 4 Landscape/Street Scene (with Yellow and Blue Intrusions, One Deteriorating), 1992. Colour photographs, oil enamel on rubber, oil enamel on Formica-mounted masonite, acrylic on board. 139.7 × 350.52 cm.

146

147

5 Street Scene (with White) Intrusion/Single Leaf (Yellow), 1992. Colour photographs, acrylic, photocopy on Gandhi Ashram paper, acrylic wash, paper stickers, crayon, oil enamel on rubber. 254 × 87 cm. 6 Street Scene/Leaning Woman, 1992. Colour photographs, oil enamel on rubber. 96.52 × 63.5 cm.


Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg 2

1

1 Pilot (Jammer), 1975. Sewn fabric, rattan pole and string. 205.7 × 215.9 × 99.1 cm.

3

2 Capitol, Bones and Unions, 1975. Rag-mud, bamboo, silk, string, glass and teakwood. 86.4 × 135.9 × 135.9 cm. Ed 10.* 3 Vow (Jammer), 1976. Sewn fabric and rattan pole. 213.3 × 101 .6 × 49.5 cm. * All editions published by Gemini GEL, Los Angeles.

227


Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg 2

1

1 Pilot (Jammer), 1975. Sewn fabric, rattan pole and string. 205.7 × 215.9 × 99.1 cm.

3

2 Capitol, Bones and Unions, 1975. Rag-mud, bamboo, silk, string, glass and teakwood. 86.4 × 135.9 × 135.9 cm. Ed 10.* 3 Vow (Jammer), 1976. Sewn fabric and rattan pole. 213.3 × 101 .6 × 49.5 cm. * All editions published by Gemini GEL, Los Angeles.

227

Western Artists and India  

An introduction to India's relationship with the West that focuses on the American and European artists inspired by their visits to independ...