Frieze New York 2017

05 May – 07 May 2017

Jhaveri Contemporary is delighted to participate in Frieze New York with a stand devoted to women artists, across generations, from South Asia. The stand will include a rare group of bronze sculptures by Novera Ahmed, oil paintings by Arpita Singh and Lubna Agha, woven tapestries by Monika Correa, ink drawings and a fiber installation by Manisha Parekh, relief prints and photographs by Simryn Gill, and works by Yamini Nayar that negotiate the gap between sculpture and photography.

Novera Ahmed (1939–2015), a pioneer sculptor of Bangladesh, was responsible (along with Hamidur Rahman) for the original design of the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka, a monument dedicated to those who died in the Bengali Language Movement of the 1950s. Novera left East Bengal as a teenager to study at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in London. She later studied under Jacob Epstein before travelling to Italy where she trained under Venturino Venturi. Political upheavals meant that her home became, after the Partition of British India, a part of East Pakistan; and in 1971 the war of separation led to the formation of Bangladesh. Living in self-imposed exile in France, Novera created a series of exceptionally distinctive bronze sculptures of mythical beasts—owls, snakes, djinns—which she first exhibited in Paris in 1973.

Also from Bengal is the painter Arpita Singh (b. 1937). Road Signs: Don’t Cross Central Park at Night (1995) combines basic elements from urban Indian life—traffic signals, crowded roads, automobiles—with child-like graffiti, numbers, and toys as well as, crucially, the ageing female body. The dense pattern that results mimics embroidered textiles. The title of this painting is taken from a poem by Mexican poet Octavio Paz; for Singh, however, the note of warning extends well beyond New York to a more general sense of insecurity and even violence that affect and afflict her female protagonists.

Both Arpita Singh and Monika Correa (b.1938) were involved with the Weavers’ Service Centre, a government cooperative aimed at the preservation and promotion of the traditional handloom industry. Correa was introduced to the art of weaving in 1962 by Marianne Strengell of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Through her tapestries, she explores the limitlessly diverse patterns and textures of nature. In Rainforest (2012) and Purple Rose of Cairo (2013), she continues to refine the concept she has been developing over the last decade: to remove the reed at a certain juncture in the weaving process, so that the warp threads can meander freely. This introduces three-dimensional optical illusions, as well as an extraordinary sense of freedom and happenstance into the tapestry.

Lubna Agha (1949–2012), a Pakistani-American artist, referenced both the vastness of natural landscapes and the scale of the human body in her paintings of the 1970s. A politically engaged artist, Agha returned to Dhaka soon after the war of 1971 that led to the division of Pakistan. Fascinated by the purity of abstraction, she began to devote herself to a series of paintings in a gestural, expressionistic mode.  Her highly modulated white paintings with ovoid forms were a radical departure in her practice. In their search for putatively hidden meanings, critics began to read her organic forms surrounded by red and black lineaments as broken eggshells, bleeding nipples and the umbilical cord. The artist, however, claimed that nature, simply, was the source of her inspiration: “Nature is nature but abstraction is also nature.”

Simryn Gill (b. 1959) has developed a distinctive oeuvre in a range of media and processes that including drawing, photography, making collections, and writing. Her Vegetation (1999/2016) prints were begun at a residency at Artpace in Texas. Here, Gill begins the process of masking and disguising, of naturalizing human figures (in this case herself) into the landscape, through obscuring their heads with fruit and vegetation: tumbleweed and aloe in Texas, mangrove and grasstree in Australia and bird’s nest fern in Singapore. Pressing In (2016) features impressions taken from the surfaces of timber washed onto the shore, off the straits of Malacca and in the vicinity of Gill’s studio, and printed onto various paper types and pages from publications. These range from catalogues of butterflies, lists of the apparent locations of stars to wage rolls, timesheets, and ledgers.

Manisha Parekh (b. 1964) continues to explore an exclusively abstract language that is both geometric and organic, while also referencing the craft and textile traditions of India. A small group of gestural ink drawings titled Tangled Foot sits alongside a wall-mounted installation, Daana—a set of abstract forms created using jute fiber and shown in a careful interplay between object and spatiality.

Drawing inspiration from the heritage and “archives” of modernist architecture and sculpture, Yamini Nayar (b. 1974) builds imagined structures from found and raw materials and photographs them before destroying the tableaux. The environments that Nayar constructs loosely allude to both specific landmarks, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Building, and generic spaces—a midcentury living room, say. Works like A Thousand Arms (2017) and Coil (2016) are absented of people and appear psychologically freighted, often with distorted perspectives that address issues of personal and collective memory. Nayar describes her works as “spaces that question the iconic in photographic memory, where found images are pivot points for imagined, alternate structures.”