Magazine article Artforum International

Bhupen Khakhar. (Reviews: Madrid)

Magazine article Artforum International

Bhupen Khakhar. (Reviews: Madrid)

Article excerpt

MUSEO NACIONAL CENTRO DE ARTE REINA SOFIA

Indian artist and writer Bhupen Khakhar's career began in the '6os, but some of his works might seem to be from an earlier time. An oil on canvas titled Royal Circus, 1974, looks like something Henri Rousseau, that classic "primitivist" of Western art, could have painted nearly a century ago. In Khakhar's painting, a man accompanied by an odd-looking animal of enormous proportions plays a strap-on keyboard. He appears to sing as the beast stares at us with its tongue hanging our of its mouth. Neither funny nor sad, the two companions stand in the middle of a round arena; no audience is seen. The painting's faux-naive and populist quality allows Khakhar to position himself as a deliberate outsider to modern tradition, treating it as an airy fantasy.

A turning point in Khakhar's career came in 1981, when the seemingly unsophisticated stylization of Royal Circus was replaced by a visually more complex syntax, referencing a gamut of visual sources from Persian miniatures to Brueghel and modern Indian posters--while challenging established tastes in Indian art. (Khakhar's work belongs to the so-called Baroda School, a group of figurative painters living in Baroda, Gujarat, whose art endows genre scenes with Pop aesthetics.) Khakhar's paintings acquired a gentle "Eastern" flavor, applied through color and form, but also through a specifically Indian--or so we believe--blend of sexuality and spirituality. In You can't please all, 1981, a naked man stands on a balcony, contemplating a city vista. Life below is busy with daily activities, from fixing a car to strolling around the town to digging a grave for a donkey. The near-total absence of women in the scene suggests a man's world in which men are interested solely in other men. The underlying narrative refer s, in fact, to a folktale about two men, a father and a son, who get swindled while trying to sell a donkey--to which Khakhar has added an erotic component: The animal carrying the two men (before it dies) has an erection. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.