Art, Music and Dance of India

Ram Kumar, Untitled, Oil on canvas, 1961, 20.0 x 31.0 in. 50.8 x 78.7 cm. Signed in HIndi and dated in English (lower left) ‘Ram Kumar 61’. (Photo via News India Times)

A compelling sampling of India’s performing and visual arts were on display recently in New York City, reports Sujeet Rajan, executive editor of Parikh Worldwide Media, in News India Times.

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, classical Indian dancers from the Navatman Dance and Barkha Dance Company brought to life stories such as “the saga of how Hanuman set Lanka on fire after his tail was lit up, and how God Ganesha got his elephant head, after he was beheaded by Lord Shiva.” And Abhang poetry, a centuries-old devotional poetry from Maharashtra, was performed by a vocalist to accompaniment by traditional Indian musical instruments. The performances, Rajan notes, were part of a larger World Culture Festival offered at the MET on Nov. 4.

Meanwhile a noteworthy exhibit of paintings by Indian artists opened at a gallery in New York.

DAG Modern, which has locations in New Delhi and Mumbai too, opened their new exhibition ‘India’s Rockefeller Artists: An Indo-U.S. Cultural Saga’, which showcases iconic works of the Indian painters and sculptors who travelled to the US on grants enabled by John D. Rockefeller III’s philanthropic vision, first through the JDR 3rd Fund (1963–1979) and then through the Asian Cultural Council.

The opening of the exhibition, which will be exhibited through early March, 2018, was preceded by the launch of a 500-page book, published by DAG Modern. A product of extensive research from the Rockefeller and artists’ archives, the documentation in the publication includes interviews with the living artists and surviving family members of others, along with rare photographs. The catalogue tells the stories of India’s Rockefeller artists and their art as a testimony to JDR III’s impact on the Indian art landscape.

The support from Rockefeller grants, notes Rajan…

…benefited some of India’s most important artists, among them V.S. Gaitonde, whose work formed the subject of a retrospective at the Guggenheim, New York, in 2013; Tyeb Mehta, one of the most widely collected artists in private and public collections; Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar, Bal Chhabda and Krishen Khanna, all associates of the then Bombay-based Progressive Artists’ Group. Natvar Bhavsar, Jyoti Bhatt, K.G. Subramanyan, A.M. Davierwala, Avinash Chandra, Arun Bose, Paritosh Sen, K.S. Kulkarni, Vinod Dave, Bhupen Khakhar and Rekha Rodwittiya were some of the others whose contribution to Indian art practice in the 20th century has been seminal.

Go to News India Times to read more about both the event at the MET, and to see images of some of the artwork on display.

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