Kushal Ruia, Haven, 2009
Exhibit (A), 2009 at Tao Art Gallery with Photographer’s Guild of India (PGI)
September 5 through 14, 2009
On Photography: Contemporary Images from Mumbai
I recently connected with Contemporary Photographer, Bhairavi Parikh, about covering a photo exhibition in Mumbai. Due to obvious geographical circumstances, Parikh and I arranged a remote experience via archival images and video that resulted in a long-distance art investigation. The following is an interpretation of the exhibition that took place at Tao Art Gallery in conjunction with the Photographer’s Guild of India (PGI) earlier this month.
Exhibit (A) is a collaborative group exhibition held annually in Mumbai. This year’s installation consists of thirty-four art professionals, ten assistants, and sixteen art students, all working in the medium of photography. The concept behind this presentation centers on the notion of art industry workers and photography students as reputable artists. Aside from apprentices and students, everyone participating in Exhibit (A) is a working professional in his / her respective field. Most of the artists work in commercial realms and freelance photography. As stated in PGI’s press release, “The work in the show represents the soul of the artist, driven purely by passion and instinct and not by the rigid guidelines of commercial / advertising photography.”
The Indian art world views its professional photographers as technical agents rather than visual artists. The show’s premise highlights the photographer as artistic producer and collaborator. The other guiding force in the exhibition is advocacy, a sort of activist logic that elevates consciousness and supports group sentiments on photography. In New York, Alfred Stieglitz was one of the first photographer’s to advocate for the medium. Writing during the first half of the 20th Century, Stieglitz symbolizes the struggle for photography’s position within the visual arts, “As I hold the future well-being of photography very dear, I must see to it that these forces which militate against it be opposed and destroyed.”
As artistic communicators, the participants of the exhibition seek to become the medium, the tools they choose to construct knowledge helps them to express their messages. The visual artists in Mumbai employ photographic images that relate to all forms of human experience. Subjects range in a variety of interests—from abstract compositions and landscape investigations to portraiture and human activity. Selected images are those that speak to these disparate processes and use discursive interpretations that highlight more than their professional pursuits.
Exhibit (A) represents a powerful expression of sixty different ideas and subjects for the advancement of one artistic practice. The works displayed within the show are clearly expressions of each artist’s personal interests in composed subject matter. For example, Rohan d’Souza’s Dress Circle, 2009, is an abstract image of a human form taken from an aerial position that plays on visual perception that deceives the eye at first glance. The image mysteriously makes the viewer question its subject. In Vishesh Verma’s Untitled, 2009, the viewer is made to understand formal beauty in contrast to elements that do not go together, e.g. a baby alligator and an enchanting topless female figure. Exhibit (A)’s deliberate move to highlight alternative ideas and unconventional subjects reveals the artist’s desire to liberate their work from any preconceived notions of what constitutes a commercial photographer. This show successfully conveys the message that there is more to a professional photographer than the ability to create mainstream work.
Saish Kambli, Untitled, 2009
Rohan D'Souza, Dress Circle, 2009
Atul Kasbekar, Monkey Boy, 2009
Riddhibrata Burman, For Love, Sex and Violence, 2009
Sohrab Davar, His Own World, 2009
Vishesh Verma, Untitled, 2009
Bhairavi Parikh, Saswad Series, 2009
W. Keith Brown is a Chicago-based art educator, writer, and researcher. In the past, Brown has been an editor and writer for the Illinois Art Education Association, Stockyard Institute, and the Critical Visual Art Education Club. His writing has appeared in two books and a handful of local, national, and international publications and writing projects. Brown uses critical pedagogy, social justice, and education knowledge to expand his thinking on contemporary art history, theory, and criticism.
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