New York: The Asia Society Museum in New York is currently showing their latest contemporary exhibition, “Nalini Malani: Transgressions”. Malani received her technical training in painting at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Mumbai and throughout her career has focused on a number of controversial topics such as feminism, race, gender and global politics. This was especially powerful in the 1980’s when feminist topics were less prominent in art on the Indian subcontinent. In her process the artist is inspired by myths and allegories from a variety of cultural backgrounds including Hindu and Greek. “Transgressions” is no exception as it brings forward a strong narrative depicting globalization and transnational current events focusing specifically on the powerful western influence in postcolonial India.
I was fortunate enough to slip into the Asia Society thirty minutes before closing, the ideal time to experience the central installation of the exhibition: “Transgressions II”. This enchanting piece, created in 2009, is part of the Asia Society Museum’s collection and depicts cultural negotiations in India. The piece consists of video projections combined with shadows utilizing three large transparent cylinders. “Transgressions” is both playful and visually haunting with the multifaceted use of a variety of mediums and sound. Each aspect of the work is an independent artistic expression that when combined, brings forward a dramatic multisensory experience for the viewer. Malani’s paintings on the transparent cylinders are in homage to the Chinese reverse glass painting of the 18th century and are aesthetically engaging all on their own. Viewers can walk freely through the projections and examine these dynamic paintings individually. The only other additions to the exhibition aside from the large installation are a selection of books by the artist depicting the drawing and painting technique in full. This addition invites Malani’s audience into her artistic process. Holistically, the work creates an engaging contrast between histories of seasoned storytelling and modern technology.
As a viewer, I felt fortunate to experience the work completely alone and be ensconced in the ever evolving and shifting visuals of animals, characters and designs. Accompanying the moving colors and imagery was a poem written and read by the artist. Both the painting and poem touched on the artist’s central topics of colonialism and world politics. However, the visuals rarely depicted the poem in a literal sense, creating a dizzying, dreamlike quality. “Transgressions II” is an all-consuming and enthralling installation that allows Malani to fully absorb her audience in her multiple levels of creative expression and storytelling. This exhibition is a uniquely beautiful success for both the artist and the Asia Society Museum. While in New York this summer be sure to take in “Nalini Malani: Transgressions”. The exhibition will be up through August 3rd 2014.