Chitra Ganesh's alternate reality
When the museum acquired Chitra Ganesh’s work, I already had the seed of a show growing in my mind. I had been asked to come up with an exhibition drawn from the collection featuring works by artists of color. This is problematic on many levels. I have always believed that separation is sometimes useful, but that integration must be the goal. In any case, the works available for a show of that sort lacked any thematic cohesion. At the same time, I’d had many MICA students inquire about seeing works from the storeroom that reflected a graffiti or comic book sensibility. The collection did not have much to offer. It took time and several acquisitions to bring together an exhibition that focused on the theme of alternate realities—artists looking at real-world problems through visual fantasies, comics, sci-fi. Ganesh’s gorgeous print fit the bill beautifully and was installed along with prints by Trenton Doyle Hancock, Wangechi Mutu, Toshio Sasaki, Enrique Chagoya, William Villalongo, iona rozeal brown, Raymond Pettibon, and Amy Cutler. On Paper: Alternate Realities was on view September 21, 2014–April 12, 2015. It was the most organically diverse show of my career and remains one about which I feel extremely proud.
I love a print that looks cool and asks more questions than it answers. Chitra Ganesh’s Away from the Watcher is a colorful combination of screenprint and woodcut that features an enigmatic figure at left (in a scuba or space suit—you decide) who seems to be exhaling an Indian goddess figure, while watching a city on a hill possibly being destroyed. Along the top left is a comic-strip-style thought bubble that reads: “She taught me precious little before she withered and died. Nothing of the little black holes I would dip into. Nothing of telepathy, nor the insides of my eyes. Nothing of…” This image raises many questions: Is somebody inside the scuba/space suit—isn’t it propped up? Is the Indian goddess figure being expelled or inhaled? Are we underwater or in outer space? What do the small winged creatures signify? What calamity has befallen the city at right? The somber melancholy of the text seems at odds with the dynamic depiction of the planet’s fissures, as well as the brilliant color and energetic comic-book style of representation. These alternate moods and narratives clash and connect in a newly constructed vision of the future.
Chitra Ganesh (American, born 1975)
Printed and published by Durham Press
Away from the Watcher, 2014
From the series Architects of the Future
Woodblock and screenprint
629 × 797 mm. (24 3/4 × 31 3/8 in.)
Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of an Anonymous Donor, BMA 2014.29
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Ann's art blog
A small corner of the interwebs to share thoughts on objects I acquired for the Baltimore Museum of Art's collection, research I've done on Stanley William Hayter and Atelier 17, experiments in intaglio printmaking, and the Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair.