The new 21st-Century Gallery at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
features a rich diversity of global artists including Julie Mehretu (Ethiopia), Shahzia Sikander (Pakistan), Farhad Moshiri (Iran), Yukinori Yanagi (Japan), William Kentridge (South Africa), Jiha Moon (South Korea), David Schnell (Germany) and Indian artist Ravender Reddy. Reddy is known for his brightly painted sculptures of life-size figures and monumental heads, usually painted bright blue or gold. A current international news photo features a Reddy sculpture in front of the flame-engulfed Central World Department Store in Bangkok.
Reddy's work blends the past with the present and the spiritual with the vernacular. He draws from sacred Indian traditions of temple sculpture and religious mythology, making figures that seem to update the classical gods and goddesses. At the same time, he finds inspiration for his subjects in everyday culture, including female fashion, popular films, and an Indian bazaar aesthetic. Reddy is also inspired by American Pop art, in particular that of Claes Oldenburg and Tom Wesselmann, whose varied interest in monumentality, the female figure, and transforming common objects into heroic forms influenced his own embrace of Indian popular culture and traditions of public art.
VMFAs monumental female head Krishnaveni I belongs to a type of figure Reddy developed during the 1990s. Standing over six feet tall, this startling work commands attention. The swelling volume of her face with its deeply modeled forms and highly stylized features removes her from the realm of the everyday. Enhancing this otherworldly, iconic quality, layers of burnished gold leaf cover every inch of flesh. Various other attributes, however, call attention to her earthly connections. Her brightly painted lips and brows and the flowers in her hair reflect everyday Indian fashion and its sources in Indian and Hollywood film. Moreover, in Reddy's home state of Andhra Pradesh, Krishnaveni is a popular female name, further linking this figure to the everyday world.
According to the artists website, VMFA has the only large head sculpture. Reddy's work belongs to a number of other major international public collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London; the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Fukuoka, Japan; the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia; and the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, India.