NEW YORK, NY.- Since the beginning of the 20th century Indian artists have attempted to articulate a vernacular visual language; this frequently assumed the form of either taking Western art as something to be rejected outright, or changed significantly, in order to create something for themselves.
Abanindranath Tagore for instance sought an indigenous style, firstly by referencing the Mughal manner and subsequently through the development of a pan-Asian style. His attempt to create 'oriental art was very deliberately positioned in opposition to that of the occident.
Another example is Jamini Roy, who initially produced works in a hybridized postimpressionist style that echoed Seurat and Van Gogh before turning instead to the paintings made outside of the Kalighat temples for inspiration. Roy's rejection of Western Modernism is very pronounced, yet it is this action that makes it possible to read his subsequent development as a parallel to Modernism's increasing move towards a flattened picture plane. So somewhat paradoxically by turning away from Western Modernism in order to articulate a new vernacular tradition - Roy aligned himself with Modernism's stripping back of ornament in favor of line and color planes.
Utilizing Western Modernism but yoked to Indian subject matter was a strategy that was used by a number of artists who followed Jamini Roy, including F.N. Souza and M.F Husain. They and other artists associated with the Progressive Artists' Group looked towards Western Modernism but attempted to make it specific to India, often foregrounding the rural inhabitants of India as a way to picture the life of the nation.
Likewise, many Modernist artists working in the West, such as Picasso and Matisse deliberately drew on non-Western sources, a phenomenon that became known as 'Primitivism'. The extent of who influenced whom on either side has been the subject of much discussion. As such, it is perhaps accurate to start to trace a complex pattern of rejection, influence and echoing between artists working in India and Western Modernism in the various ways they worked to articulate a vernacular visual language.
Attempting to examine this further and perhaps tease out some of those complexities, this survey exhibition features the works of M. F. Husain, Jamini Roy, Anjolie Ela Menon, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Abindranath Tagore, Nadalal Bose, Sadequain, F. N. Souza, Jagdish Swaminathan, S. H. Raza and Laxma Goud.