baseera khan

i’m in love with a painting i saw last night…   it’s by baseera kahn, a young woman whose parents are from bangalore, india.  baseera grew up in houston.    her experience of india is through the remnants of the culture clinging to her parents.    or from the visits she, as someone raised in america,  made when visiting family.      she’s interested in the immigrant experience –  dislocation, alienation, integration, assimilation.  she interprets cultural hybridization.   internationalism.  her paintings are layered — both in imagery and meaning.     kind of cartoon-ish.    very beautiful.    influenced by pop culture, western and south asian aesthetic traditions, anthropology, painting, video and the work of shazia sikander and shirin neshat.

the “space” in the paintings hints at landscape.   but traditional landscape painting is undermined by floating imagery and ambiguous “ground.”    her characters (cricket players, camels, elephants, saddam hussein) may be allegorical.  they may represent a stereotype.

“we share wealth” is at first a painting of three elephants and floral patterns.   it’s dreamy and abstracted.    the large elephant is blue and on the right.  see it?    the mid-sized elephant (harder to make out – at the left, seen from the back) stands on a big red (cooked) lobster — perhaps a play on the hindu story that the world rests on the back of an elephant and the elephant stands on the shell of a tortoise…     in the very bottom left is a caricature of a policeman (who could also be any official/officious person) and a construction helmet.    there’s a ghost-y little beaver sitting on top of the helmet (a form suspiciously tortoise shell-like).  baseera made this painting while she was deciding to move to new york and new york was settled by the dutch in part, because of the fur trade.     the patterns are taken from the tile-work floor of a church that used to be a mosque.   they’re being pulled apart.    they also make reference to two forms of feminine decoration – the custom of painting henna on a woman’s body and lace.     and make a nod to the labor and meditation involved in intricate, repetitive patterning…     (click on it for a better image)

“we share wealth” 2007 acrylic, ink and enamel spray paint on paper,  40×50 inches

a couple more images of her paintings – for context:

“in searches”  acrylic, ink and enamel spray paint on paper, 12×15 inches

“battle transportation” acrylic, ink and enamel spray paint on paper, 23×23 inches

“training saag” acrylic, ink and enamel spray paint on paper, 38×52 inches

we’ll have a show of paintings, an animation and an installation by baseera khan in our new york gallery in april 2009.

“kitchen sink”

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