Two London exhibitions, the Serpentine Gallery's Indian Highway and Aicon's Signals Taken for Miracles, are the UK's most formidable tries yet to distill coherence into the chaotic rush of art emerging from the Indian subcontinent.
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The relationship amongst the conceptually minded Serpentine and Indian art – whose overriding traits are narrative drive, flamboyant figuration and sensuous color – is intriguing since it is so unlikely. The latest unforgettable Indian installations have been sprawling, immediate and generally rooted in the animal motifs of folklore: Bharti Kher's "The Pores and skin Speaks a Language Not Its Very own", a collapsed fibreglass elephant adorned with bindis (female brow decorations) at Frank Cohen's Passage to India, or Sudarshan Shetty's bell-tolling aluminium forged of a pair of cows, now at the Royal Academy's GSK Modern day. Almost nothing like that is in Indian Highway with conceptual aplomb, the Serpentine turns the accessibility and vitality of Indian art into a taut cerebral video game.
The freeway of the title refers each to the literal street of migration and movement, and to the info superhighway, which jointly are propelling India to modernity. Dayanita Singh's wallpaper-pictures of Mumbai's central arteries illuminated at night introduce the topic in the 1st modern day art gallery, and a crowd of sober documentary films worthily carry on it – but a pair of installations capture the symbolism finest. One is Bose Krishnamachari's celebrated "Ghost/Transmemoir", a assortment of a hundred tiffin containers – broadly utilized to express household-cooked lunches to employees across towns – every single inset with Lcd monitors, DVD gamers and headphones, by way of which everyday Mumbaikars regale audiences with their stories, accompanied by soundtracks evoking the substantial-pitched jangle and screech of Mumbai avenue lifetime.
The other, towering upwards to the North art gallery's dome like a beating black heart at the main of the exhibit, is Sheela Gowda's "Darkroom", consisting of steel tar-drums stacked or flattened into wrap-all over sheets, evoking at once the grandeur of classical colonnades and the advert hoc shacks built by India's street workers. Within, the darkness is broken by very small dots of mild by holes punctured in the ceiling like a constellation of stars yellow-gold paint enhances the lyric undertow in this severe readymade.
Reverse is N S Harsha's "Reversed Gaze", a mural depicting a group guiding a makeshift barricade who tilt out in the direction of us – producing us the spectacles at the exhibition. All Indian daily life is below in this comedian whimsy: farmer, businessman, fundamentalist Hindu, anarchist with firebomb, pamphleteer, aristocrat in Nehruvian dress, south Indian in dishevelled trousers and vest, vacationer clutching a miniature Taj Mahal, and an artwork collector keeping a painting signed R Mutt – linking the complete parade to the urinal, signed R Mutt, with which Marcel Duchamp invented conceptual artwork in 1917.
Crucial to the which means of "Reversed Gaze" is that it will be erased when the exhibition closes – a slap in the confront for the predatory art current market. So will the pink and purple bindi wall portray "The Nemesis of Nations" by Bharti Kher, who not long ago joined pricey global gallery Hauser and Wirth. And a canvas of drawings greeting readers as they enter is all that is still left of Nikhil Chopra's general performance piece "Yog Raj Chitrakar", in which the artist this 7 days put in 3 times assuming the persona of his grandfather, an immaculately dressed gentleman of the Raj, and lived and slept in a tent in Kensington Gardens, getting into the gallery only to daub the canvas that stands as an artwork of aftermath – a memory drawing.
Painting below is a vanishing act. Maqbool Fida Husain (aged ninety three) has designed 13 brilliant poster-style functions – crimson elephants, a tea ceremony just after a tiger taking pictures, a satirical Final Supper with dapper businessman, umbrella, briefcase, physique components – to encompass the exterior of the Serpentine. MF Husain is India's most respected artist with these billboards, executed in his conventional fashion of forceful black contours, angular strains and vivid palette, he returns to his job origins as a painter of cinema commercials.