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Erasing Borders: Art of Indo-Americans

Indian diaspora
Photo: courtesy: Center for Contemporary Art

By Ralph J. Bellantoni

The Indo-American population in the U.S. has surged in the past 25 years, with New Jersey one of the prime beneficiaries of this enriching influx. Even while integrating into American society, Indian immigrants treasure and preserve from generation to generation much of their vividly kaleidoscopic culture, so resonant with countless centuries of tradition.

The Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster has teamed with the Indo-American Arts Council in hosting the 13th annual “Erasing Borders” exhibition of contemporary artists of the Indian diaspora. Celebrated printmaker Vijay Kumar curated the display of works by 24 established and emerging artists.

The presentation features paintings and prints, sculptures and installations, photographs and works on video, which meld Indian concepts, aesthetics, and materials with Western influences. Predominant themes include culture clashes, the challenges of adapting to life in the U.S., and issues of sexuality, terrorism, disease, the environment, racial and sectarian tensions, and other social concerns.

Multi-disciplinary artist Indrani Nayar-Gall applies her formidable repertoire of expressive expertise towards social activism.

“My present practice explores patriarchy and misogyny by inquiring into the tradition of religious servitude within certain sects of Brahmanical Hinduism,” Nayar-Gall said. “This body of work questions the hidden motives underlying the display of beauty within the rituals, and the conspiracy of dominant classes in using beauty to lure the marginalized and destitute into acquiescence.”

The measured calm of Nayar-Gall’s diagrammatic compositions camouflages their deeply subversive motivations. Her sensitive modulations of designs and symbols in works like “How to Write a Myth” slyly deconstruct the elegant formulations of established institutions, peeling away their beguiling splendour and ceremony to reveal the entrenched hierarchical systems of subjugation they codify and promote.

“The act of cutting, and unorthodox approaches to print media, become important ways of depicting and relating motifs,” Nayar-Gall explained. “They subvert the conspiracies of traditions.”

Nayar-Gall’s focus recently shifted away from protest against hidebound social systems and onto the personal narratives of those they afflict.

“My newer, emerging body of work, switches toward merging words and text with visual elements,” Nayar-Gall said. “As stories of victimization continue alongside stories of empowerment, the urgency to include the victim’s voices has become more apparent to me.”

Other artists, such as Reeta Gidwani Karmarkar, prefer addressing more purely formal concerns in their work. The sheer joy of creative expression motivated her from the outset.

“From the time I held my first crayon, there was never any doubt in my mind that I would paint,” Karmarkar said.

She initially concentrated on figurative painting, but four years spent studying in Rome at the Accademia di Belle Arti on a scholarship opened new worlds for Karmarkar.

“I found the perspectives used by 14th century painters fascinating, it was an epiphany for me,” she recalled. “Since then my work has explored different angles, planes of perspective, and false perspectives.”

The abstract geometric figures in Karmarkar’s paintings press and squeeze against one another and against the edges of the canvas, generating visual frictions that energize her compositions. Dynamic tension, a creative yin-yang opposition, distinguishes many of her paintings and public murals.

“It intrigues me to take architectural designs and abstract them,” Karmarkar said, “narrowing and expanding space with color and a mixture of rigid, hard edges, plus rough, painterly strokes.”

The center will stage a live family performance of “Tenali Raman: Folktales of India” by the Dragonfly Multicultural Arts Center from 2 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 3. The production combines music, dance and comedy in recounting the adventures, wit and trickery of the beloved 16th century poet and jester who served in the court of Indian emperor Krishnadevaraya. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children, purchasable online.

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through April 15

WHERE: The Center for Contemporary Art, 2020 Burnt Mills Road in Bedminster


INFO: 908-234-2345 or


Next Story

India-Bahrain Art Exchange: The event in New Delhi to Feature Work of 30 Artists from across the World

Indian art scene is considered among the most developed in the region with great talent, therefore, India will be a huge platform for artists to showcase the artwork of Bahraini artists

Encouragement of Indian artists and Bahraini artists
A painter working for Islamic Art annual fair. Wikimedia
  • Rouble Nagi has teamed up with Kaneka Sabharwal to show an initiative, that aims at connecting creative enthusiasts from Bahrain and India
  • The event will be conducted later this year, in Mumbai and New Delhi 
  • The event is set to feature work of around 30 artists including the significant presence of Bahraini female artists 

New Delhi, August 17, 2017: Indian art doesn’t seem to show any signs of abatement in the international art world, and eminent artist and philanthropist, Rouble Nagi is all pumped up to show the master that she is.

Rouble Nagi Art Foundation has teamed up with Kaneka Sabharwal to show an initiative, first of its kind, that welcomes contemporary artists from the entire world and aims at connecting creative enthusiasts from Bahrain and India through an unparalleled exchange program. The initiative is supported by the government of India.

“I was very keen to create something that will fall in line with the emergent global consciousness that has entered the international art scene. I wanted to introduce the world to contemporary Indian art and bring global art to the country so that the relationship with art is much more intimate and undeviating. The event won’t be limited to showcasing art but also consists of art-talks so as to open a dialogue between international artists,” mentioned Rouble Nagi, in the ANI report.

“This initiative aims to give a platform to Bahraini and Indian artists, exposing them to local and international aspirational values, as well as creating economic capital from the cultural capital,” she added.

ALSO READ: Indian art gaining worldwide recognition. 

The event which is to be conducted later this year in Mumbai and New Delhi will be held under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of the King of Bahrain, President of The Supreme Council For Women ArtBab. She produces art on an iPad, and is going to visit India for the very first time.

The event is all set to feature work of around 30 artists, ranging from impressive video art installations, eclectic pop art, to contemporary sculptures and the significant presence of Bahraini female artists.

Balqees Fakhro, Faika Al Hasan, Jamal Abdul Rahim, Khalid Farhan, Lulwa Al Khalifa, Nabeela Al Khayer and Omar Al Rashid are some of the Bahraini artists who will be showcasing their works.

There will also be an exhibition of the artistic dexterity of the underprivileged children, who are supported by the Rouble Nagi Art Foundation.

Kaneka Sabharwal, Co-Founder of ArtBAB and Founder of Art Select and Jonathan Watkins of Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery, who is also chair of ArtBAB’s international selection committee, will be the curator of the event.

“Bahrain, which traces its roots to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, the Dilmun Empire, has a rich history of art and many historians assert that the art came to the kingdom of Bahrain from India. The Bahrainis are known to have some of the best art collections and I want to introduce art collectors and enthusiasts around the world to the talent of Bahraini artists,” noted Kaneka, who moved to Bahrain in 2009.

According to Dr. E M Janaki, CEO Tamkeen, art sector has not only locally but across the region, achieved importance as an engine of economic growth.

ALSO READ: Indian art: The folkish inclination 

Indian art scene is considered among the most developed in the region with great talent, therefore, India will be a huge platform for artists to showcase the artwork of Bahraini artists.

The vision is to bring together an art alliance that isn’t limited by geographies and widens the conception of art, in regard to which, the multi-cultural arty affair will be host to a bevy of notable guests from various spheres, including political and corporate.

-prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha