Rina Banerjee: Foreign Fruit

13 January - 28 February 2007 Cloître Saint-Merri I & II - Paris

Galerie Nathalie Obadia is pleased to present the first exhibition in France by Rina Banerjee, an Indian artist born in Calcutta in 1963 who now lives and works in New York.

Since the turn of the century, she has featured in a number of important shows and museums such as the Whitney Biennial (2000), the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (2003), the Brooklyn Museum of Art (2004), "Fatal Love: South Asian American Art Now" at The Asia Society and The Queens Museum of Art, NY (2005), and the "Greater New York Show" at  PS1/MOMA, NY (2005). She is slated for a solo show at Tokyo Wonder Site in 2007.

Rina Banerjee grew up in London and then the borough of Queens. She now lives in Brooklyn. She studied to become an engineer before deciding that she wanted to work in the visual arts and taking an MFA at Yale. Her work displays a complex interaction between her "blood culture" and her "adoptive cultures." Her drawings, sculptures and videos (her earlier works) are informed by the contradictions between an ancestral, artisanal culture and the vigorous claims of the "pop" culture in which she lives. However, beyond the bright colours and playfulness there lies a real political concern and an often acerbic sense of social critique which can be read as a romantic protest against the dilution of Indian culture in globalisation. In the large-scale installation "Take Me, Take Me, Take Me… To the Palace of Love" (2003), Rina Banerjee articulates a much more committed discourse regarding her origins. This piece comprises a huge pink plastic tent referring to the idea of the Taj Mahal. In another piece, "Pink Eye," Banerjee reconstitutes a tea party using photographs and letters from the 19th century. Both these works show how India has been reduced to an exotic theme park and arena for colonisation. With her background in engineering, Banerjee brings real precision to her exploration of the complex symbolic relations between Indian culture and her adoptive American culture. She admits that she is herself fascinated by chaos, and her work contains numerous metaphors such as the beads worn by Indian women and the scarab beetles worn only by Indian men of the higher castes. But while decrying the caste system she also wonders if the Anglo-Saxon liberal system is really any more equitable. Banerjee has a strikingly subtle way of using materials and colours, combining abstract composition with a committed discourse. She is, in her way, an engineer of colour and composition.In the drawings of sensual bodies made on squared paper found in a New York hospital Banerjee explains the phenomenon of contamination, of the resistance and yielding of bodies. 


These can be read as a metaphor of the female body, which in India is so often slighted, as are those of the poor and the victims of colonisation, who had to enduretheir shackles for so many years. There is always a tension between supreme beauty and the deeper message.

At Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Banerjee will be showing "With tinsel and teeth, gem and germ...get back, get back to where you once belonged," a sculpture that was much acclaimed at the exhibition  "Fatal Love" at the Queens Museum of Art, New York, in 2005.
 At once sensual and endowed with real gravitas, this work is made up of bright pink paper and tiny caimans' heads.It embodies the paradoxes of India today, a country with a burning commitment to the global economy yet deeply faithful to its ancestral principles. For Rina Banerjee, it represents an act of resistance by her original culture, and by all other cultures, to the global culture distilled by the West and, more particularly, the Anglo-American world.