Tuesday, August 14, 2012

MF Husain, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta

Karen Rosenberg of  The New York Times  has done an exhaustive review of the Indian art group show at The Rubin Museum of Art. Here’s a quick glance at the way he portrays MF Husain, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta:

Three of the artists - MF Husain, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta - are each represented at the Rubin by a painting and a short film. Generally the films outshine the paintings, though prolific artists like Husain are not well served by a single canvas.

M. F. Husain (1915-2011), one of the most celebrated modern Indian artists, has a more lighthearted way with film in ‘Through the Eyes of a Painter’, which won a Golden Bear Award when it was presented at the Berlin Film Festival in 1968. It opens with Husain, brush in hand, introducing the film as a set of “unrelated moving visuals juxtaposed to create a total form, a total poetic form, very integrated.”

The camera then darts impulsively through the Rajasthani landscape, taking in palatial architecture, river bathers, schoolchildren and curiosities like an open umbrella marooned on a rocky cliff. The film is a peripatetic experience in a similarly peripatetic show, which could have benefited from some more historical context. As it is, you will need to venture into the reading room or consult the timeline on the Rubin’s website.

Line has a different function in a painting by Tyeb Mehta, part of a late-1960s series in which strong diagonals cut across the canvas and through flattened figures in an explicit reference to Partition. It’s a dynamic, unsettling work, and Mr. Mehta’s film “Koodal” is even better; with its cows headed for slaughter, crowds massing at Gandhi’s funeral, and the gyrations of a self-flagellating dancer, it will leave you off-balance.

Akbar Padamsee’s 1964 painting ‘Untitled (Bird in Landscape)’, with its deadeningly repetitive use of the palette knife, does not excite. But his animated film ‘Syzygy’ (1968-69), made with the help of a fellowship from an Indian foundation, finds an enlightened middle ground between math and art. As tightly constructed as a proof, it first lays out his principles of abstraction in a sequence of graphs and charts and then furnishes numerous examples in the form of elegant, Mondrianesque line drawings.

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