Press Preview & V.I.P. Reception: Friday, October 21, 6:00pm –
Aicon Gallery, New York’s leading venue for Modern and Contemporary South Asian art, is pleased to present The Morning After, a solo exhibition of Abir Karmakar’s most recent cycle of works. Following on the heels of his successful 2007 exhibition In the Old Fashioned Way, at Aicon’s London gallery, Karmakar’s current work continues to explore the presence and absence of the human body as a conceptual structure. While his large-scale androgynous self-portraits took center stage and established the notion of presence in his prior work, Karmakar’s current scenes of recently vacated hotel rooms locate their human presence through its deliberate and conspicuous absence.
Two ingeniously crafted single and multiple channel videos that accompany the exhibition set the tone for the viewer’s complete engagement with the work. Karmakar’s dexterous superimposition of images, gleaned from footage of three individual sleeping figures obtained over a period of three separate nights, suggests more than what meets the eye. Evocative of sexual play and titillation, these tableaus compel the observer to weave their own version of what might have transpired through the night. Despite the presence of human bodies in the video images, these fleeting, transitory glimpses of intimacy anticipate their absence and the viewer’s need to provide signs of human presence and interaction in the accompanying oil paintings.
In a series of eleven masterfully rendered and often monumentally-scaled oil paintings, Karmakar’s highly realistic images of empty hotel rooms remain charged with the tactile signs of human presence and intimacy. The creased sheets, rumpled blankets and indexical marks of body shapes on the pillows spur on our imagined recreations of prior human dramas into realms of perception far deeper and more evocative than the simply visual. For the artist, the stark absence of any human form lends these scenes a powerful and almost extrasensory reminiscence of such, through which we come to perceive the rooms themselves as extensions of their human occupants. This heightened sensorial engagement of the viewer through associative forms is central to Karmakar’s theme of an impersonal space that has been transformed by our constructed recollections into a host for subjective memory.
Reminiscent of Felix-Gonzales Torres’ seminal billboard series, in which a photograph of an empty, unoccupied bed was prominently displayed in public spaces throughout New York City, Karmakar’s
Abir Karmakar, Scent II, 2011, Oil on canvas, 48 x 72 in.
paintings create an opportunity for the viewer to conjure his or her own interpretation of these scenes premised upon their individual experiences and cultural contexts. The subject of the works then is not defined by pictorial content so much as their functioning as a conduit for myriad interpretations, through which we may reevaluate our understanding of the ephermal nature of human relationships within our unique and varied sociopolitical frameworks.
In addition to these vacated hotel rooms, are scenes of disheveled private bedrooms filled with cast-off clothing that the artist describes as “the skin of the body.” By juxtaposing the suggestion of urgent prior movement and activity with a profoundly still space, the viewer is challenged to produce a narrative in conjunction with their own immediate, visceral response to the work. Through mastery of spatial construction and a painstakingly realistic yet texturally flat style, Karmakar is able to visually lure us into the spaces depicted while requiring the active participation of our subjective memories to complete an interpretation of just what’s being represented. In this sense, the overwhelming impact of the paintings in The Morning After lies in their power as transformative agents, constantly mirroring and reflecting our own thoughts and memories back at us.
Born in Siliguri, India in 1977, Abir Karmakar studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda (2003), where he was awarded the Gold Medal for Fine Art, Painting, and at B.V.A. Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata (2001). He has exhibited widely in India – De Tour at Gallery 88, Mumbai (2005), Fusion at Baya ABS Gallery, Baroda (2004), Birla Academy of Arts and Culture, Kolkata (2003). His previous solo exhibitions include Within the Walls, Galllery Espace, New Delhi (2008), Interiors, Galerie Heike Curtze, Berlin (2006) and From my Photo Album, The Museum Gallery, Mumbai (2005). His work has been covered in the The Art News Magazine of India and the Telegraph of India. Abir Karmakar currently lives and works in Baroda, India. This is his first solo exhibition in New York.
Please contact Aicon Gallery ([email protected]) for more information.
** All Images are not hi-resolution, but available upon request.