Monday, August 12, 2013

Contrast indeed works for this celebrated artist couple

Temperamentally, the two artist-individuals are different. If she needs to be by herself, Jitish Kallat can accommodate all that is around him, relishing and thriving on the buzz of the city. Reena Kallat might not share all of her thought process, discussing only after she has clearly defined, whereas he won’t mind throwing up almost each of his idea for debate. If he is somewhat messy and noisy, she is more organized and calm.

Contrast indeed works, and there can be no better example than that of the successful careers Jitish Kallat and Reena Kallat have charted out – individually and in each other’s company. Temperamentally different, they constantly inspire each other. The former is as informed by the environment of his city as he is by the sociopolitical changes occurring in India and elsewhere. His works, such as ‘Baggage Claim’ (2010) evoke a peculiar ‘peoplescape’ of individuals, subtly exuding the complex reality of city living on their heads.

His ‘Public Notice 3’, an ambitious installation at the Art Institute of Chicago, had an extended yearlong run. Linking the 1st ever World Parliament of Religions hosted there on September 11, 1893, with the terrorist strikes in the US, he used the text of spiritual guru Swami Vivekananda’s speech on religious tolerance, to light up the institute’s staircase.

The sensitive artist, known to be deeply influenced by the never-ending cycle of life and nature apart from fragile nature of the human condition, invariably sets up juxtapositions like the universality of such a state and its local relevance, historical precedence and its immediate presence.

In the process, she prompts the viewers to reassess their existing notions. The beauty of the powerful and nuanced objects Reena Kallat employs is belied by their implicit violence. She opts to retrieve these as symbols, or even create new ones to reposition them, resulting in irony that makes the viewer come face to face with the fragility of the human condition in the context of oppressive political forces.

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