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‘The Earth’s Heart,
Navjot Altaf: A Life in Art
Curated by Nancy Adajania
12 December 2018 to 25 January 2019
Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai in collaboration with The
Guild Art Gallery presents
Navjot Altaf’s rich and complex career spans over five decades, during which the artist has experimented with a spectrum of media, including painting, sculpture, installation and video, and extended her practice through a series of encounters and collaborations with intellectuals, activists and subaltern artists. From the earliest phase of her career, as a painter emerging from Bombay’s Sir J J School of Art, to the present, when she straddles the worlds of tribal Central India and of global contemporary art, Navjot has sustained ideas and work through a process of intense scrutiny.
“As an alumna of the JJ School of Art, Bombay (1967-1972), Navjot was trained as a formalist, with the academic emphasis on abstraction. However, her introduction to Leftist politics while still at JJ instilled in her an empathy for the marginalised denizens of society. What began as a behalfist gesture to represent the Other gradually grew into a quest for equitable communication. But having realised that no form of communication or discourse is entirely free of prejudice or power asymmetry, she has deftly deployed abstractionist devices in her work to express the limits and pitfalls of communication. I have elsewhere analysed this as the productive push-pull between the discursive mandate and the impulse towards abstraction in Navjot’s work.’
“The exhibition follows the long arc of Navjot’s practice, showcasing her drawings from the early 1960s, before she had joined the JJ School of Art, as well as never-before-seen student assignments at JJ, rare posters and prints from the 1970s and 1980s, her iconic paintings from the 1990s, and collaborative and new media practice from the 1990s to the present.’
“The title of this show is a tribute to all those voices that have been suppressed by an apathetic State, but refuse to be silenced. In Navjot’s video ‘Soul Breath Wind’, Nirupama, a farmer from Chattisgarh, warns us of the final countdown as rapacious mining rips people from their ancestral land and disembowels the earth: “Purein dharti ka kaleja nikaal diya.” ”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Navjot has been granted an international award for Public Art Project for her work Nalpar and Pilla Gudi in 2013. Apart from, ‘Delhi Loves Me’ (2005), ‘Barakhamba 2008’ and ‘Barakhamba 2010’ in Delhi, ‘Body City Flows’, a part of ‘Geographies of Consumption/The City as Consumption Site: Bombay/Mumbai’ (2016) projects, ‘Empty Containers’, a part of Yamuna-Elbe Contemporary Flows; Fluid Times, New Delhi, India, Hamburg, Germany (2011) was another of her public art projects. Navjot’s work has been exhibited in world-renowned institutions, galleries, universities in Germany, USA, UK, Norway, USSR, Korea, Belgium and biennials in Australia, China, Japan, Cuba as well as in institutions across India.
Navjot’s work has been written about and curated by some of the art world’s best, including Nancy Adajania who has written a definitive study of her art – The Thirteenth Place: Positionality as Critique in the Art of Navjot Altaf – placing it in multiple art historical and political contexts; Geeta Kapur, Grant Kester, Elena Bernardini, Leon Tan, Roobina Karode and Gayatri Sinha.
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Adajania was Joint Artistic Director of the 9th Gwangju Biennale in 2012, and has curated many exhibitions including: ‘No Parsi is an Island; A Curatorial Re-reading Across 150 Years’ (National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi, 2016); ‘Sights and Sounds: Global Film and Video’, Jewish Museum, New York (2015); and the hybrid exhibition-publication project ‘Sacred/Scared’ at Latitude 28/ TAKE on Art magazine, New Delhi (2014).
Adajania taught the curatorial practice course at the Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts (2013/2014). She was the juror for Video/Film/New Media fellowship cycle of the Akademie Schloss Solitude (2015- 2017). Adajania has proposed several new theoretical models through her extensive writings on media art, public art, transcultural art and the biennale culture from the Global South. She has lectured on these subjects at numerous venues including Documenta 11, Kassel; ZKM, Karlsruhe; the Centre for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, New York and the 3rd Former West Research Congress, Vienna.
She has recently edited two transdisciplinary anthologies ‘Some things that only art can do: A Lexicon of Affective Knowledge’ and ‘Totems and Taboos: What can and cannot be done’ for the Raza Foundation (2017/2018).
NATIONAL GALLERY OF MODERN ART, MUMBAI
The National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai was opened to the public in the year 1996. It is located in the precincts of the former auditorium, the Sir Cowasji Jehangir Public Hall, and the Institute of Science. This architecturally marvelous building was designed and built by the famous British architect George Wiet. Subsequently, this building has been completely redesigned by the famous architect Shri Romi Khosla giving it a spiral spin. It hosts various national and international exhibitions. It has its own art collection comprising paintings, sculpture and graphics, with a focus on Indian and International artists, mainly from the progressive art group like K.H. Ara, F. N. Souza, V.S. Gaitonde, S.H. Raza and M.F. Hussain. NGMA, Mumbai has had a great tradition of hosting several spectacular exhibitions in the past, which we are continuing till date. Some of the recent exhibitions include the highly successful Bombay Art Society exhibition, which covered the landscape of the historic Bombay Art Society’s existence over 125 years. NGMA, Mumbai has also hosted several other notable exhibitions which include Rabindranath Tagore, Amrita Sher-Gil, Jamini Roy, Nicholas Roerich, the Parsi exhibition and major exhibitions on A. A. Almelkar and M.V.Dhurandhar.
ABOUT THE GUILD ART GALLERY
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