Wednesday, August 29, 2012

PAG members still hog the limelight

A religiously and culturally diverse cast of eccentric characters, all these artists were all enveloped by the highly charged political climate and cataclysmic conditions of cosmopolitan Mumbai in the 1940s. Each one had his unique approach though they were bound by a common thread of eccentricity and propensity to experiment. As with many of his contemporaries, Gaitonde was influenced by western art and the works of such leading figures as Joan Miró, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee.

Ram Kumar abandoned the stylized figure painting characteristic of his early years abroad (studying in Paris) and developed, upon returning home, a spiritual tie to his native landscape. If captivating color and landscapes were known to be Gade’s calling cards, Bakre chose to experiment with an array of mediums like painting, sculpture and wood carving. The fact that the trio of Ara, Bakre, and Gade failed to attain the international fame as well as glory of M. F. Husain, Souza and Raza is explained in part by the prodigious output of the latter three.

A series of events and exhibitions only help to retain the spotlight on the PAG. For example, New York based Aicon Gallery last year hosted ‘POP’, the first part of an exhibition series featuring works by the Progressive Artists Group members. It focused on a selection of works on paper by Ram Kumar, Padamsee, Husain, Raza and Souza.

They considered the works on paper not just as a window to larger-scale canvases, but rather as fully developed creations in their own right. Through them, they tried to attain experimentation in their iconic pictorial languages. The second part featured a selection of large scale works on canvas.

An exhibition at London based Grosvenor Gallery in 2010 hosted several significant works by the group, so did the Delhi Art Gallery just recently. ‘Continuum’ comprised some unseen gems by the PAG artists in the backdrop of a sustained interest in their works and lives. Many of the important works by these luminaries of modern Indian art were also showcased at the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston.

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