Visiting the Venice Biennale? You must step into The International Pavilion at Viva Arte Viva to see the sculptural installations of Kolkata-born artist and thinker Rina Banerjee. Galerie Nathalie Obadia of Brussels and Paris brings into the prestigious Biennale the participation of Rina Banerjee, in the 57th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia running from May 13 to November 26.
Galerie Nathalie Obadia states that Rina Banerjee is one of the most important Indian artists on the contemporary scene. She has been invited by the brilliant curator Christine Macel (curator at the Centre Pompidou in Paris), to participate in the International Pavilion Viva Arte Viva, located in the Giardini.
Born in India and based in New York City, artist Rina Banerjee (b. 1963) draws on her background as a scientist and her experience as an immigrant. Her richly textured works complicate the role of objects as representations of cultures and invite viewers to share her fascination in materials. By juxtaposing multifaried organic and plastic objects – such as combining ornate textiles and animal forms with tourist souvenirs – she concocts fairy-tale worlds that are fascinatingly enticing as well as subtly menacing because her titles lead us into an endless commentary of observations and private ruminations.
Rina Banerjee, who was born in Kolkata, India and lives in Manhattan New York, works with a cosmopolitan eclecticism that reflects both her transnational background and her sophisticated understanding of the narrative power of objects.
Her materials reflect her avant garde objectives and techniques. Her titles define her intellectual aesthetics. Using trinkets made for the tourist trade — horn, bone, feathers, shells, textiles, glass bottles and antiques — she assembles rapturous sculptures that speak of the mystery of shamanism, but they also overflow with complex yet multiple connotations and mooring metaphors.
The first time I saw her work was at the Freer and Sackler Gallery in Washington DC. Touching on themes of migration and transformation, there was an installation and it was the length of the title that conveyed the sense of a long journey: A World Lost: after the original island, single land mass fractured, after populations migrated, after pollution revealed itself and as cultural locations once separated merged, after the splitting of Adam and Eve, Shiva and Shakti, of race black and white, of culture East and West, after animals diminished, after the seas' corals did exterminate, after this and at last imagine all water evaporated...this after Columbus found it we lost it imagine this.
Here at Venice she presents four works that combine classic satire and modernist modes of multiple allusions born of literary and personalised reflections in history and experience. Her first work is called Addictions to leaf and nut aroused, curled currency and culture to itch and moan as arrivals of plants from plantation, not just servants or slaves exploded, swelled to levels fantastic but without majestic magic hurt to ripen. The composition of the work is what excites your senses, she uses – steel armature, feathers, fabric, glass beads, thread, dried gourds, silver leafing.
Her second work looks like an exotic flower and is entitled Excessive flower, hour by hour, banal and decorative, banished and vanished of power, reckless and greased she steals like jewel thieves, fierce, always in theater as actor, often captured in oils, thrown in air, robbed in vitality as death appears for all who have more color see her as unequal in sting to sun and processions of pomp if in marriage and funeral bearing in mind possessions of inheritance acquired.
Her materials in this work probe into the corridors of what is quaint and curious. She uses thread cotton, cowry shell, glass bottles, wire, linen, silk, mirrors, vintage trim, cable, steel armature, copper tubes, seed beads, porcupine needles, cock feathers, peacock hairs, faux eyelashes, speakers, and frozen Charlotte doll heads.
At the Venice Biennale, her works are hyper – ornamented and lushly seductive. She conjoins rarities with lesser priced, mass-produced bric-a-brac, she appropriates extravagantly while rejecting hierarchies of material, culture and value and creates endless historical annotations born of a migrant experience.
In her third work that personifies another flowery creation-her title informs and gives insight – Women did do this in shining when her spare threads and vines crimped, wrinkled in lines could force a clear high shimmer of Bud, blue-black flower all boney and new, will upon will, came with whispers of new. Once again she uses intriguing elements – Thread cotton, cowry shell, glass bottles, wire, linen, silk, mirrors, vintage trim, cable, steel armature, copper tubes, seed beads, porcupine needles, cock feathers, peacock hairs, faux eyelashes, speakers, and frozen Charlotte doll heads.
In Banerjee's installations, she invites us to partake of her chimerical landscapes, often in states of transformation or with hybrid features of birds and beasts. It is her long, free-form refrained titles that immerse the viewer in the physical and emotional space of the work, heightening its quasi-mystical magnetism and illustrating her penchant for translating academic and aesthetic renditions in her act of reading.
The work that is a cynosure for all eyes is titled When signs of origin fade, fall out if washed away, trickle into separations, precipitate when boiled or filtered to reveal all doubleness as wickedness. Vanishing act that migration, mixation like mothers who hid paternity who could name move me slowly reveal me only when my maker stands straight – in this historic creation she uses turtle replica in resin, vintage shell lampshades, steel armature, Polynesian wood mask, Pyrex filtration lab glassware, feathers, thread, linen, silk, amber vials, cowry shells, seed beads, and pearls. And her curriculum vitae is impeccable in all facets. Banerjee holds a Bachelor of Science in Polymer engineering from the Case Institute of Technology. In 1995, she graduated from Yale University with an MFA and received the Drawing Award Norfolk-Yale University in the same year.
Her most important exhibitions have been at the Whitney Biennal (2000), Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (2003), Brooklyn Museum of Art (2004), "Fatal Love: South American Art Now" at The Queens Museums of Art, New york (2005), "Greater New York Show" at PS1/MOMA, New York (2005), a solo exhibition at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (2008), Boghossian Foundation, Brussels (2010). In 2011, she held a solo show "Rina Banerjee: Chimeras of India and The West" at Musée Guimet, Paris.
Images: Gallerie Nathalie Obadia –Brussels,Paris