Art of the South Asian Diaspora Featured in William Paterson University Galleries Exhibition

--Exhibition is held in conjunction with University’s 2014 Cross-Cultural Arts Festival: South Asia

--Additional events include panel discussion on April 7 and artist talk on April 10   

Issues of connection and detachment, migration and displacement are confronted by five artists South Asian artists in an exhibition at the William Paterson University Galleries in the Ben Shahn Center for the Visual Arts from March 31 through May 30, 2014.  Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on April 6, 13, and 27, and May 4, 11, and 18 from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Sunday, March 30 from 2 to 4 p.m.; the snow date is Sunday, April 6, also from 2 to 4 p.m.

Doublebind: Art of the South Asian Diaspora, on view in the South and East Galleries, showcases works in a variety of media by Jaishri Abichandani, Hasan Elahi, Naeem Mohaiemen, Yamini Nayar, and Jaret Vadera.  The exhibition, curated by Kristen Evangelista, director of the University Galleries, is presented in conjunction with the University’s 2014 Cross-Cultural Arts Festival: South Asia.  The festival, which runs from March 23 through April 12, features the impact of the fine arts, music and cinema in facilitating cross-cultural empathy and developing global connections. In addition to the exhibition, events include music and Indian classical dance from the diverse cultures of South Asia, as well as panel discussions, theatre, films, and a children’s art workshop. All events are open to the public.

“For the artists in this exhibition, the notion of diaspora is more complex than the binary relationship of ‘here’ or ‘there.’ Rather, it is multi-positional and ever shifting,” says Evangelista. The exhibition’s title is borrowed from the work of Ranajit Guha, an Indian cultural theorist who explore the concept of the “doublebind,” which describes the predicament of the migrant who straddles opposing realms such as “native land” and “adopted home,” and past and present.  “The artists in this exhibition draw readily on disparate, overlapping, and opposing cultural references to resist fixed meanings,” she adds.

Indian-born Jaishri Abichandani generates a tension between past and present in her series of ceramic female figures, Before Kali (2013). Terracotta figurines, an ancient South Asian art form dating from the Indus Valley civilization (2600-1900 B.C.E), frequently depicted female bodies, presumably as deities for worship.  Abichandani favors similar materials of clay, stone, and wood but she portrays women in a new range of poses, gestures, and emotional states from bliss to agony and rage.

New media artist Hasan Elahi, a native of Bangladesh, probes the tensions between connection and detachment in his project, Tracking Transience (2002 – present). After being mistakenly investigated by the FBI in the aftermath of 9/11, he began recording his own exact location using a GPS tracker, and location and time-stamped photographs, which were continuously updated on his website.  Through this act of self-empowerment, he exposes the social implications of surveillance, borders, and frontiers.

Boundaries, wars, and belonging are some of the themes that inform the work of Naeem Mohaiemen, who grew up in Bangladesh. In his installation Der Weisse Engel (2011), he weaves together two vignettes from German and Bangladeshi lives in flux. His film weaves footage and dialogue from John Schlesinger’s film Marathon Man (1976) with the artist’s own commentary. The project invites viewers to consider the slippage between “justice” and revenge” in political struggles of the past come forward into the present.

Combining photography and sculpture, Yamini Nayar, who was raised in Detroit and in India, creates contested, transitional spaces that almost verge on abstraction. She fashions tabletop constructions and wall-built models from wood, Styrofoam, and other industrial materials and debris. These ephemeral spaces and structures are captured in photographs and then destroyed. She explains, “The final photograph can be both an accumulation of gestures of traces, or chosen from a state of ‘in between.’”

Canadian-born Jaret Vadera addresses the politics of vision and, he says, “the layered processes through which we make sense of the worlds around and within us.” Using diverse media including sculpture, photography, video, and installation, he challenges stereotypes and preconceptions about national identities as well as individual and political motivations to pigeonhole minorities.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a panel discussion will be held on Monday, April 7, from 2 to 3:15 p.m. in the University Galleries. Balmurli Natrajan, a William Paterson University associate professor of anthropology, will moderate a discussion featuring Gary Michael Tartakov, professor emeritus of art and design, Iowa State University, as well as exhibition artists Jaishri Abichandani, Naeem Mohaiemen, Yamini Nayar, and Jaret Vadera. In addition, the Galleries will host an artist talk by exhibition art Hasan Elahi on Thursday, April 10 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

The exhibition is one of two on view concurrently in the University Galleries. Profiles of the Future—The Annual Student Art Exhibition, on view in the Court Gallery, features works by the University art students in an exhibition co-organized by the University Department of Art and the Student Art Association.

This exhibition is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. The William Paterson University Galleries are wheelchair-accessible. Large-print educational materials are available. For additional information, please call the William Paterson University Galleries at 973-720-2654.

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