October 29 – December 12, 2015
Benrubi Gallery is pleased to announce Laura McPhee’s The Home and the World: A View of Calcutta, the artist’s fifth solo show with the gallery, and her first since the gallery relocated to Chelsea in January of this year.
McPhee’s images are less an overview of this city of 15 million than glimpses into its complex, often conflicted soul. The photographs gauge both the history of personal spaces and impart a sense of intimacy and calm that often belies the maelstrom that can be found in the external world. This tension permeates the show: in the war of attrition between nature and the built environment, vines shroud statues and columns, stones sieve rusty earth, clouds are saturated with smoke and exhaust. There is the eclectic mix of culture and class: Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish; Asian and European; palace and tenement; antique and modern, Behind the inordinate attention to surface, to vivid pigments and extravagant display, something more profound is seeking revelation.
Elaborate Victorian, Dutch, Roman, and Mughal architectural details and patterns, an end in themselves in other contexts, are here backdrops to the recursive iteration of object and ornament—silks, flowers, paintings, tiles, or just trash—which call to mind both handicraft and factory, human endeavor both recent and far away. The effect, like the city itself, resists reduction, but insists on being experienced in its diversity. We associate the sublime with high art, but its origins here lie not in temples and palaces but in the hands that created them.
In McPhee’s series “Driveway Portraits” (so-called because they were taken at the gatepost of the house she lived in during her time in Kolkata), pass pedicab drivers, street entertainers, domestic servants, worshippers. They participate in a photograph, then move on. The feeling is of something bigger than history or personality or class. We might call it the human condition, or civilization, but perhaps the most accurate name for it is simply time.
Laura McPhee (b. 1958) was born in Manhattan and grew up in central New Jersey. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Rhode Island School of Design. McPhee’s work has been widely exhibited both in the United States and abroad, and she is the recipient of a number of grants and residencies, including a Fulbright Scholars Fellowship in 1998 for work in India and Sri Lanka, and in 2003-05 a residency in Idaho from Alturas Foundation. She was also awarded, in 1995, a New England Foundation for the Arts fellowship, and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship in 1993. Her exhibition River of No Return was exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2006; a monograph of the same title was published by Yale in 2008. Her latest monograph, The Home and the World. A View of Calcutta (Yale University Press) was published in 2014. Her photographs are included in the permanent collections of many museums, including the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. She is currently a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and lives in Brookline, MA.
BENRUBI GALLERY (FORMERLY BONNI BENRUBI GALLERY)
521 WEST 26TH STREET, 2ND FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10001 212.888.6007 INFO@BENRUBIGALLERY.COM
AND if you are in Boston, you can see her work in a group show SEEING THE ELEPHANT at the
Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery
Sep 28 – Dec 5, 2015
Laura Letinsky & John Paul Morabito
The Indian story of the blind men and the elephant tells of earnest, observant individuals trying to describe something. Each of them probes one part of an elephant and gives his description. The result is a wildly diverse range of properties from the ear to the legs, tail, and tusk. All are true yet they hardly coalesce and often conflict.
This is an apt parable for those documenting and drawing inspiration from India, a country that has long been a subject for artists, writers, and scholars fascinated by the nation’s colors, complexities, and contrasts. It is ancient and modern, agrarian and industrial, connected and self-contained.
Seeing the Elephant features international contemporary artists whose work explores a wide range of topics facing India today. The structure of the exhibition is to approach the region from within and without, from positions of intimacy and expertise as well as from a more aesthetic distance.
Curated by Lisa Tung, Director of Curatorial Programs.
Monday – Saturday: 12:00-6:00PM
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
621 Huntington Ave
Boston, MA 02115
And last but not least: THE BOOK
“McPhee’s book is a loving portrait of the former capital of India, its architecture that remembers its history while embracing its future, its residents that line the streets, selling goods, tailoring dresses, delivering cargo.”–Nicole Crowder, The Washington Post
“ . . . awash in colors, textures, and architectural details as it sweeps through extravagant mansions and crumbling dwellings.”–Jan Gardner, Boston Globe
Photographer Laura McPhee, noted for her stunning large-scale landscapes and portraits of the people who live and work in them, has been traveling to eastern India for over a decade. There she has devoted her perceptive vision to picturing layers of history, culture, religion, and class as they appear in private heritage homes and public markets, in lively street festivals, and in the faces of city dwellers in Calcutta (also known as Kolkata).
This exquisitely produced book features a selection of McPhee’s works made in and around India’s former capital. Here we glimpse courtyards, living spaces, temples, and altars as both vestiges of the past and elements of contemporary urban existence. McPhee’s images sensitively penetrate the surface to show the blurred boundaries between social classes, the blending of public and private life, and the resonance between India and other parts of the world. Also included are a foreword by Amitav Ghosh on the historical divisions inherent in the city’s culture and on the nature of McPhee’s work, and an essay by art historian Romita Ray on the ways McPhee captures and distills the remnants of colonial Calcutta in her photographs of the contemporary city.
And here is a wonderful piece in the exquisite journal PLACES by Alan Thomas: Across the Threshold: Laura McPhee’s Calcutta