Released July 23, 2005
SALEM, Mass.—The Peabody Essex Museum is pleased to present Exposing the Source: The Paintings of Nalini Malani, approximately 40 works in oil, acrylic, watercolor, and mixed media, as well as video installations. Nalini Malani is one of India’s leading contemporary artists, known for her politically charged work. The paintings in this show are drawn principally from the Peabody Essex Museum’s Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, considered one of the most important collections of contemporary Indian art outside of Asia.
Malani’s powerful, dream-like imagery straddles issues of individual, social, and political identity. Malani’s city of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) is now the second largest in the world and an ongoing subject of her paintings. The lives of women, the predicaments of gender, and the struggle for voice and power feature prominently in these works. Ancient Greek and Hindu epics, and modern European drama, give additional subtext to Malani’s complex, layered surfaces.
“Nalini Malani probes beneath surface appearances to locate essential truths of the human condition. She draws from within herself to expose the depths of human emotion—love, hate, fear, lust, pleasure, aggression, pain,” writes Susan Bean, curator of South Asian and Korean Art, in the introduction to the exhibition.
Exposing the Source is organized along several themes, including Woman’s Room, a potent body of work that interprets women’s experiences and roles as an allegory for our time; Undercurrents, paintings that look at the underlying realities of urban life and the consequences of man-made ecological disasters; and Stories Retold, in which Malani reinterprets classic epic narratives and modern drama to reveal universal, yet elusive, aspects of the human experience. As in much of Malani’s work, she presents these stories from the viewpoint of powerful women, for example, Radha, Sita, and Medea–major figures in Indian and European cultural history.
Malani is also known internationally for her media- and performance-based installations. Two of her videos are included in this exhibition: Stains(animation, video–DVD, with audio, 2002), in which the artist’spartially transparent, unsettled shapes take on new meaning through the immediacy of film; and Unity in Diversity (video–DVD, with audio, 2003), based on the 2002 attacks against Muslims in Gujarat, India.
Born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1946 and currently residing in Mumbai, Malani's work has been shown at important exhibitions around the world, including the 2005 Venice Biennale; the 2005 show Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India at the Asia Society and the Queens Museum in New York; the 2003 Istanbul Biennale; and a solo show at The New Museum in New York in 2002. In 2007, Malani will have an international traveling solo show starting at the Museum of Modern Art in Dublin.
Exposing the Source: The Paintings of Nalini Malani opens Aug. 27, 2005, at the Peabody Essex Museum and will remain on view as an ongoing exhibition from the museum’s permanent collection.
The Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection
The Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection of contemporary Indian art at the Peabody Essex Museum comprises 1,200 works by more than 70 of India’s leading artists of the second half of the 20th century, including M. F. Husain, S. H. Raza, Manjit Bawa, Tyeb Mehta, Ganesh Pyne, Laxma Goud, Jogen Chowdhury, Nalini Malani, Bhupen Khakhar, Gieve Patel, and Arpita Singh. This groundbreaking collection also includes a major international art library and an archive of letters, papers, and other documents. In 2003, the Peabody Essex Museum opened the Chester and Davida Herwitz Gallery of Contemporary Indian Art, the first gallery dedicated to India’s modern and contemporary art by an American museum and featuring changing installations from the collection.
The Peabody Essex Museum has been a pioneer in the study and presentation of Indian art in the United States. Shortly after its founding in 1799, the museum began collecting contemporary art and culture from India. Today, its holdings include thousands of works from India, from the 18th through the 20th centuries, including paintings and drawings; works in clay, wood, and metal; embroideries; furniture; and a large collection of 19th- century photographs. The collection also contains important logs, journals, and letters recounting 18th- and 19th-century voyages to India.