Friday, July 11, 2008

Neti Neti at Bose Pacia, New York

Bose Pacia, a gallery in Chelsea specializing in contemporary art from India, has an impressive summer show on now. Curator Peter Nagy started out in New York as an artist and the co-founder of Nature Morte, a seminal gallery in the East Village circa 1982-88. He moved to New Delhi in 1992, and five years later recreated Nature Morte in a city largely devoid of challenging contemporary art spaces. Nagy has organized a show featuring artists from within and outside India, which includes painting, photography, computer-generated art, textiles and sculpture.

Sheba Chhachhi, Ganga's Daughters (Initiation); untitled 3, 2001-7

While visiting the exhibition, I had the pleasure of meeting photographer Michael Buhler-Rose, who is in the process of completing his MFA from the University of Florida and relocating to New York. Michael's photographs in the exhibition focus on a community of Hare Krishnas based in Gainesville, FL, most of whom are of European-American descent but who have embraced the traditions and customs of India to a far greater extent than this Indian-American blogger, for one. The images knowingly reference exoticizing depictions of the East and the Other, found in paintings by Delacroix, Ingres, and later Gaugin.

Michael Buhler-Rose, Kalindi & Prtha, Alachua, FL, 2006

In particular, Buhler-Rose has focused on members of this community who are also students of Bharatanatyam dance, the Indian equivalent of ballet in grace and physical rigor. These models are performers, in control of their appearance at all times, thus retaining subjectivity in the face of the photographer's traditional, male gaze. The work combines classical imagery with strong photographic technique to complicate distinctions of time and cultural ownership. Adding further complexity is the fact that Buhler-Rose is a lifelong student of Indian religion, possessing a grasp of cultural nuance exceeding that of most Indians or Indian-Americans.

Michael Buhler-Rose, The Secret, 2006

Buhler-Rose will be exhibiting another body of work, related to the history of the Dutch East India Company and its relationship to Dutch still life painting of the same era, at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in 2010. Neti Neti is on view at Bose Pacia through August 16.

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