Celebrated female artists found fame away from homes

Celebrated female artists found fame away from homes
This week’s art column offers a peek into a number of important art happenings later this year and till early next year. To begin with, we focus on the work of two international female artists, 101-year-old Carmen Herrara’s exhibition at Whitney Museum in New York from September 16 to January 2, 2017, and British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid’s accomplishments as an artist and calligrapher at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London from December 12 to February 12, 2017. Carmen Herrera — born in Havana on May 31, 1915 — is a Cuban-American painter whose abstract minimalistic works created with great precision have brought her global recognition late in life. While studying architecture, she met her husband Jesse Loewenthal, an English teacher, in 1939. The couple moved to New York where Herrera abandoned her architecture course and joined the Art Students League in New York. Since she painted in relative obscurity, she remained unknown till she became part of a much-publicised show of female geometric painters. In 2004, after six decades of private painting, Herrera sold her first artwork when she was 89 years old.

Carmen Herrara: Lines of Sight is the first solo showing of this groundbreaking artist at a museum in New York, where 50 exhibits showcase her works created between 1948 and 1978 during which period she developed her unique signature style. It includes nine paintings created between 1959 and 1971 0 — the period when she created her most important series, Blanco y Verde, in which Herrera conceptualised her paintings as objects, using the canvas to integrate the surrounding environment.

London-based Zaha Mohammad Hadid was born in Baghdad on October 31, 1950, and passed away on March 31, 2016. Known for her distinctive and futuristic buildings characterised by clean, swooping and dramatic lines, Hadid is widely recognised for breaking into the male-dominated world of international architecture. Her first completed project, a ski jump in Austria, became her signature style from where she went on to create increasingly dramatic buildings the world over. Her works, including sketches and paintings linked to major projects, both realised and unrealised, will be on show at the upcoming exhibition. Currently her work is on show till November 27 at the Palazzo Franchetti in Venice and includes paintings, drawings and maquettes linked to both her early and more recent works. Zaha became the first woman to receive the Pritzker architecture prize in 2004 while the Stirling Prize was bestowed on her both in 2010 and 2011. In 2015, she received the OBE and became the first woman to receive the RIBA gold medal in her own right.

Like so many other artists, both these celebrated female artists found fame far away from the land where they were born. Interestingly, on September 14, the DAG Modern in New York launched an exhibition on a similar subject titled Memory & Identity: Indian Artists Abroad. It showcases the works of 14 Indian masters who gained fame while living abroad. The list includes FN Souza, SH Raza, Krishna Reddy and SK Bakre, among others.

A solo exhibition by artist Jayashree Chakravarty titled Life Will Never Be The Same Again opens on September 19 at the Musee Des Arts Asiatiques in Nice, France. As part of the Namaste France Festival in Paris, the show, curated by Roobina Karode, is in collaboration with the Kiran Nader Museum of Art (KNMA), New Delhi, ICCR, embassy of India in France and Akar Prakar.

For several decades, Chakravarty’s concerns as seen through her art have reflected her preoccupations with the shrinking of natural habitats. Her installations have nature as both subject and material. A close look reveals petals, dry leaves fossilised between pasted paper and fabric gesturing the need to be closer to nature and healing both the self and the world we live in.

(The writer is an author and a former art gallery owner)

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