Magazine article Artforum International

Rupali Patil: Clark House Initiative

Magazine article Artforum International

Rupali Patil: Clark House Initiative

Article excerpt


Rupali Patil


Clark House Initiative frequently hosts shows dealing with Mumbai in historical and contemporary perspective, often with a view to the life and culture of the marginalized peoples whose labor drives the city. Rupali Patil's debut solo show, "Everybody Drinks but Nobody Cries," continued this tradition. Working with whimsical metaphors in drawings, watercolors, sculptures, and sound, Patil creates oneiric worlds out of the contradictions of "development" in Mumbai and Maharashtra, the massive and largely rural state of which Mumbai is the capital.

Sleeping and the physical sensations associated with dream states (rocking, floating, drifting) are frequent motifs in Patil's work, which is strongest when most absurd. Eco-echo, 2014, is a large (forty-two-by-fifty-nine-inch) monochromatic watercolor depicting a man sleeping wrapped in a mattress like a human hot dog. Next to him is an uprooted tree in the same cozy but confined state, suffocating expressionlessly from too much human comfort. Land Escape, 2014, another large watercolor, shows a small forest of speech-balloon-shaped trees launching across water on boats, as if refugees from environmental catastrophe. At the center of Tortoise Diary, 2014, a smaller watercolor, is an alarm clock with a face depicting the hilly landscape of Maharashtra's interior, set on a table that stretches, Dali-like, impossibly into the distance and out of the frame. Below the table are more than two dozen smiling turtles walking or resting. Tiny, nostalgic pictures of rural kitchen stoves, haystacks, and village temples appear on their shells, marking them with the knowledge (acutely felt by urban migrants) that a shelter is not the same as a home.

Displaced Gravity, 2013, may someday be remembered as Patil's signature work. Each of the five paper sculptures in the piece features a boat modeled after the brightly colored ones used by the Koli fishing communities who have inhabited the Mumbai area since before the British, but now largely live in substandard waterside settlements. On the prow and stern of four of the boats are pairs of miniature objects illustrating contrasts in regional development: a suit and tie versus a slum shanty; the arm of a mechanical excavator versus a pickax; a streetlamp versus a no-parking sign, on the backside of which is drawn a man sleeping in a parking spot; an electricity pylon versus a village house. …

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