Claiming Modernism

“Radical Terrain,” the Rubin Museum’s third exhibition exploring Modernism in India, focuses on landscape, presenting work by the generation of artists who worked after India gained independence in  1950. Alongside work by the older artists, curator Beth Citron has included
work by an international cohort of younger artists, including
Meagan Boody, Hasan Elahi, Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Marc Handelman,
Byron Kim, Lisi Raskin, Seher Shah, and Janaina Tsch�pe.

Syed Haider Raza (b. 1922), Untitled, 1956, oil and mixed media on canvas. Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection.

Narayan Shridhar Bendre (1910-1992), Untitled, gouache. Collection of Virginia and Ravi Akhoury.

Sudhir Patwardhan (b. 1949), The Fall; 1998, oil on canvas. Collection of Virginia and Ravi Akhoury.

Last week in the NYTimes Holland Cotter wrote a review of the exhibition questioning the West’s proprietary claim to Modernism:
The West tends to be proprietorial about Modernism, treating it as a Euro-American invention copied, in inferior versions, by the rest of the world. But more and more this view has come to look parochial and wrong. In recent years historians have been studying the reality of multiple (sometimes referred to as alternative) modernisms that developed in Africa, Asia and South America parallel with, or sometimes in advance of, what was happening in Europe…

Viewers coming to these works for the first time, knowing little about their history or context, may well see traces of European Modernism in them before anything else. It takes some looking and exposure to information to get beyond that and see what is really happening in these paintings. They aren�t about copying; they�re about artists making choices, trying out options, pursuing some, rejecting others, taking what they know and adding to it, editing it, blurring lines between South Asian and Western, shaping something distinctive from the sources used…

It�s great that the Rubin, a small institution with limited resources but imaginative thinking, has brought us exhibitions like this one and its two predecessors. Even together, though, these shows can only hint at the full history of global modernism, or modernisms, that everyone now knows is the true story of modern art. It�s a story that has yet to make its way into our big museums, but surely that day must come. 

Put in this context, MoMA’s excellent abstraction exhibition “Inventing Abstraction, 1910-25,” seems a little parochial, doesn’t it?

Radical Terrain,” organized by Beth Citron. Rubin Museum of Art, New York, NY. Through April 29, 2013.


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One Comment

  1. Just found your blog and hope to see more great stuff from you this year!

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