Perrotin New York is pleased to present The Unexpected Freedom of Chaos, a solo exhibition by New Delhi based artist Bharti Kher. Kher brings a fresh display of a widely heterogenous practice to New York after a gap of 8 years. In this latest encounter between artist and the city, the animal is still displaced but now morphed into an intentional absurdity. The bindi remains, in its rigorous ubiquity, but its surface no longer ensconced, comes to us instead as something broken, and fittingly then, as viewers will see in fluxes of time such as these – as something powerful. It comes as an unexpected freedom of chaos.
Upon entering the exhibition is Kher’s Virus, the very first one she made in an ongoing and politically pulsating series spanning 30 years (2010 – 2039). Placed aptly at the entrance of the gallery corridor, her elegant white spiral – now exactly a decade old – ushers viewers in, so quietly, that one could miss it despite its 3-metre radius. But for Kher, whose practice is invested in charting a meta arc with works that are individually whole and yet in ongoing communication with each other across the axes of time and space, the Virus is a “time-tunnel you can climb into, a vortex, a safe hole”. The near unnoticeable quality of its transformation is thus, a deliberate choice on the part of the artist who makes one such work every year accompanied by an evolving text that is part truth and part fiction. This serves both as record and rumination of our place in increasingly post truth world.
On the central walls of the gallery, Kher introduces a suite of five new works marking yet another significant fork in the long road of her bindi based practice. The ritualistic application of bindis – functioning both as membrane and material, as skin and surface, as leitmotif and language – on mirrors has been a growing trend in Kher’s work. And so has been the shattering of them. But in this exhibition, unframed and unfettered, the cracks are laid bare in a nakedness that is vulnerable but also resolutely suggestive of the fault lines and fissures of the many worlds they may find themselves in. Extending like riffs to the edges, these cracks are then sheathed, or one may even say healed, by the artist in a layer of bindis – the proverbial third eye – thus expounding the notion of reflection inherent in her choice of viewing devices as a surface. In Kher, there is an acknowledgement that the “who are we” question, has been probed ever since Narcissus gazed into his pool of water mirrors. But her point of departure from the ancient Greeks is the belief that by gazing into this dualist surface one can transform into something else – into another being, another eye, even another work of art.
“A lot of the work is about regeneration. When you break something, you free it from itself. There’s no longer a mirror, it’s something else. And that as an artist gives me freedom and the possibility to change the thing, the very fundamental of the object itself.”
The Intermediaries, together with the mirror pieces, appear then as conduits of healing – a powerful thing when we consider that the sculptures are themselves broken.
Whether they lie strewn in hundreds across Kher’s studio table in their miniature form or betwixt land and sea at the Thailand Biennale in their towering monumentality, no two Intermediaries are the same. For her Intermediaries, Kher scours Indian flea markets in search of the brightly painted clay figurines, which are traditionally displayed in South India during the autumn festive season. Each of the disparate clay figures has been meticulously collected, hollowed, conjoined, and refurbished by the artist to be presented atop their plinths of cement and candy like wax. In doing so, each figure is a world unto itself, creating a unique narrative that consciously conflates and cuts across lines of tradition, religiosity, and gender.
“These are the avatars of human existence; they are the avatars of the gods and goddesses and the myth-making of what it is to be human. When I break them down I fashion new life.”
Born in 1969 in London, United Kingdom
Lives and works in Delhi, India
Bharti Kher was born in London, United Kingdom, and lives and works in Delhi, India. Noteworthy recent solo exhibitions include Pasquart Kunsthaus Centre d’art (Bienne, Switzerland), DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art (Montreal, Canada), Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, USA), Museum Frieder Burda Salon Berlin (Berlin, Germany), Freud Museum (London, UK), Vancouver Art Gallery (Vancouver, Canada), Rockbund Art Museum (Shanghai, China), Parasol Unit Foundation for contemporary art (London, UK).
In 2020, Bharti Kher will present a solo exhibition at Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin, Ireland). Her work will also be included in group presentations at Fondation Phi (Montreal, Canada) and the Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation (Johannesburg, South Africa).
Her work belongs to prominent collections including The British Museum, London, England; Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi, India; Charles Saatchi Collection, London, England; Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis MN, USA; Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany; and Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea, among others.
—More about the artist