Craft Contemporary Guest Curator: Anuradha Vikram
January 30 - May 8, 2022
The work of Brooklyn-based multimedia artist Jaishri Abichandani responds to her experiences navigating her South Asian heritage and her identity as a woman of color, from immigrating to the United States from India as a teenager, to forging deep connections with anti-racist and feminist activist groups. Abichandani’s painted portraits and imaginative sculptures celebrate feminist and queer bodies, taking their forms from Indian classical art, but their subjects come from contemporary South Asian diaspora culture and activism. While South Asians are increasingly visible in U.S. politics, this diverse population is divided by national, regional, religious, and caste differences, and externally marginalized by a national discourse on race that casts the community as perpetually foreign. For more than 25 years, Jaishri Abichandani has been building spaces where South Asian women, femmes, and queer people can meet in creative community. This has been her focus as a founder of South Asian Women’s Creative Coalition in New York and London, as the inaugural Director of Public Events and Projects at the Queens Museum of Art, and as a Consulting Curator for the Ford Foundation Gallery, and it remains an important aspect of her visual art practice today.
The exhibition includes Abichandani’s ongoing portrait series, Jasmine Blooms at Night, now numbered at over 40 paintings and sculptures, which celebrates the contributions of South Asian women and femmes to 21st century culture and politics in the U.S. Also included are Abichandani’s ornate sculptural works which emulate the lithe, elegant postures of Indian devotional art, appearing as gods, serene even in arduous postures. Forms from Hindu, Buddhist, and African art are often Abichandani’s source material, while her subject matter comes from the inclusive and dynamic queer community that she builds around her art and activism, which extends from her home in Brooklyn to London, Toronto, Mumbai, and around the globe.
South Asian aesthetics inform Abichandani’s approach to her art practice, which is grounded in Rasa theory, a philosophy originating in medieval Sanskrit texts and re-popularized by Satyajit Ray and other Indian modernists that posits all art as an act of psychic and emotional transference between maker and audience. Using South Asian materials such as gold brocade or zari, silk, floral garlands, and costume jewelry, Abichandani’s artworks vivify their environments to activate the global, feminist ramifications of Rasa theory and broaden American art audiences’ appreciation of aesthetics that represent an unfamiliar cultural experience.