Italian Pop art, a master speaks

The Italians are back again — this is the third exhibition of contemporary Italian art being held in the city in a little less than a decade — this time with a show titled Dadaumpop: From Dada to Italian Neo-Pop, curated by Igor Zanti. The exhibition opened on Friday at the Rabindranath Tagore Centre, ICCR, like last time, and it has 27 participants, most of whom, save two of advanced years, are in the age group between 30 and 40.
Zanti, who was present at the opening, said it showcased the new languages in Italian art of our times and was meant to dispel popular notions about Italian art, pushing it back to times past. With globalisation there are no barriers dividing nations, and the exhibition was meant to explore the relationship of new Italian art and Marcel Duchamp, whose urinal ushered in a radical change in our perceptions of art. This exhibition contends that it was Duchamp and not Andy Warhol who had triggered off Pop art, and many of the works inspired by manga, TV shows for children, Alice in Wonderland, comic strips and the inescapable Bollywood — Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan in the garb of superheroes.
Quite inevitably, works based on gender identity and reversal of one’s “assigned sex” creep in, and while the painting titled Transgenic is witty, the resin sculpture of the cross-dressed individual is cold and almost menacing. The show travels from here to Delhi on February 18.
Premonition, a Raqs Media Collective exhibition, opened at Experimenter on Friday. The Collective is based in Delhi, and they make short work of geographical and mental boundaries that still perhaps exist in certain individuals. Our perception of reality is also one of their concerns, as is clear from their video of the man who goes through various stages of transformation, the photographs that leave a sense of uncertainty in the viewer, the prints and finally, the video of the jute mill smoke stack separated from the viewer by several transparent plastic rectangles. If you take the trouble of going close enough to the screen, the vegetal parasites on the chimney suddenly begin to stir and shake, as if it had started spewing smoke, although in reality, the mill has been closed for aeons. One does not need the rather elaborate artists’ statement to explain this simple truth to the simplest of viewers. But then we are afraid of simplicity.
We finally got to see and hear William Kentridge, the renowned artist from Johannesburg, whom many people in this city had earlier had the pleasure of “discovering” at his exhibition of prints and films at the Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre.
He was in conversation with Rosalind C. Morris at Max Mueller Bhavan, explaining how the use of a medium like charcoal enabled him to set off the chain of metamorphoses in his films. The manmade “hills” of the city where he works, created by the famous gold mines, disappear as they are recycled with the price of the noble metal soaring in the international market. Known for its dry winters and bright summers, vegetation there turns into combustible peat, which is charcoal, after all. Thus the literal and the metaphorical merge. Inevitably, the coffee pot — a central image in his work — occupied centre stage. A clip from his latest film ended the talk. A field full of folk came alive.