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Kuldeep Singh at Ortega y Gasset Projects

Kuldeep Singh  
ARCHITECTONICS​ ​OF​ ​DISPERSION​ ​\​
​immersive​ ​acts​ ​and​ ​objects

October 20 - 23
Ortega y Gasset Projects
363 3rd Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11215 

By JEFFREY GRUNTHANER, OCT. 2017

The performative is inherently unstable. Something about embodying the impetus of a moment refuses to reduce itself to the structure of a plan, the logic of predetermined scheduling. A recent immersive exhibition of work by NY-based artist Kuldeep Singh at Ortega Y Gasset Projects exemplified this. "Re-morphing," as Singh described, traditional aspects of Eastern art, he mounted an understated yet storied exhibition that seemed to hover in an artificial paradise of his choosing.

Day #1 - Performance Shot, Act II The rolling of mudballs with collaborating artists in movement, violin and sitarDay #1 - Performance Shot, Act II The rolling of mudballs with collaborating artists in movement, violin and sitar  

Day #1 - detail shot from performance

Comprising dance, theater, and ephemeral wall works which often involved vegetables spray-painted in crepuscular colors, the highly collaborative yet sensually decadent work of Singh recalled to mind portions of Joris-Karl Huysmans’s novel “Against Nature” (À rebours). In particular, I was reminded of that preternatural chapter which includes the following passage:

“He was the possessor of a marvelous collection of tropical plants, the result of the labors of skillful artists who knew how to follow nature and recreate her step by step, taking the flower as a bud, leading it to its full development, even imitating its decline, reaching such a point of perfection as to convey every nuancethe most fugitive expressions of the flower when it opens at dawn and closes at evening, observing the appearance of the petals curled by the wind or rumpled by the rain, applying dew drops of gum on its matutinal corollas; shaping it in full bloom, when the branches bend under the burden of their sap, or showing the dried stem and shrivelled cupules, when calyxes are thrown off and leaves fall to the ground."

Pink limbs

I’d already spoken with Singh a few days before I saw his show, and he outlined what viewers could expect during ARCHITECTONICS​ ​OF​ ​DISPERSION. “It’s thoroughly performative. That was the whole idea: that it would exist for a shorter time. I felt this was a good opportunity to pull [together] as many people as possible.” 

Day #1 - Performance shot in the installation, Kuldeep in the middle with collaborating artists 

Despite being called “ARCHITECTONICS​ ​OF​ ​DISPERSION​ ​\​ ​immersive​ ​acts​ ​and​ ​objects,” the actual show, at least on its third day, felt much less cluttered than the paratactic phrasing of this title might suggest. The quality of dispersion was mainly confined to some particle-like remnants from performances that had transpired over the previous two nights: a lingering restiveness which lent itself to the use of soil thickly caked to the space’s walls. This particular aspect of the exhibition seemed to quote minimalist land art, but as Singh told me: “I work a lot with delicate textiles, paper drawings, and mud. I’m very interested in this whole contrast of delicate and immediate. I generally source out mud from gardens, or parks. But this time I did get a few bags from home.”

Prepared real vegetables on shelves, in installation

Installation in progress (2017), process shot

As for the pastel-hued water colors on the walls—a couple of which were wonkily framed, as though screen-grabbed from a Tim Burton still—“they’re floating objects,” Singh explained. Singh's overarching intention of realizing a floating world, where audiences can free-associate and discover their own meaning in each work, especially came to light in a large-scale water color that gently displayed comestible figures—a pear, alongside another phallic-shaped yet indeterminate item of fruit—emerging from its diaphanous surface. Made of hard-to-find nepal paper, this piece, in the words of the artist, “usually floats on four nails, or tiny magnets.” 

Watercolor on Nepal paper painting with wooden footstools (2017), 62 x 44 in. (painting)

Moving the mountain (2017), watercolor on egg tempered paper, 9 x 9 in.

A decided syncretism was at play throughout Singh’s exhibition, which makes any one designation of his collaborative, multi-genre way of working feel premature. Although it’s motivated, at least in part, by Singh’s native identity (in relation to which he clarified, “Indian classical dance...becomes awareness of the body. I’m very aware of brown bodies particularly”), the personal impetus guiding ARCHITECTONICS​ ​OF​ ​DISPERSION seemed more about consolidating structured improvisation and figuring out how to work with the capacities of his collaborators. “I’m trying to locate myself as an artist internationally,” Singh told me. “You always bring these snippets, these fragments and create a liminal space, and let people make their own readings. That’s the whole idea behind the show. Architectonics are these structures—very specific units which come from a particular system of grammar.” WM

 

Jeffrey Grunthaner

Jeffrey Grunthaner is a writer based in New York. You can find his work in BOMB, artnet NewsArchinectImperial Matters, FolderHyperallergic, and elsewhere. His chapbook THE TTTROUBLE WWITH SUUNDAAYS was published by Louffa Press in 2014. He curates a reading series on contemporary poetics at Hauser & Wirth Publishers, West 22nd Street.

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