The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India

The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)

Tejal Shah (in collaboration with Varsha Nair), “Encounter(s) VI,” 2006.
Digital print on archival rag paper, 16″ X 24.”

October 20, 2011

The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco CA 94103

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is pleased to present The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India, an exhibition of sculpture, photography and video by artists of India, living inside the country and in the diaspora.

The works in this exhibition operate at the intersection of a triad of concepts—embodiment, the politics of communicative bodies, and the imaginary. It is through embodiment of the empirical functions of our senses that we are able to understand culture. Since our bodily senses focus our perceptions, they become the basis for communicating our unique experiences, which are shaped, in part, by how political structures intersect with our lives. This in turn affects the social notion of “the imaginary,” a term which relates to “the other.” The imaginary is linked to desire and subjectivity, which is central to personal and collective agency as it directs us towards what is critical and new in global cultural processes.

The three core concepts take root in the various works on view, with each medium providing a distinct avenue into understanding the moments of intersection between these ideas. The works speak to us through the artists’ nuanced handling of materials, as inquiries into contemporary questions about shifting identities, politics, social consciousness, and narratives of surrender and power. Ranging from the heroic to the ephemeral, the sculpture displays inventive imagery appropriated from a variety of past histories, as well as objects of ritual. The photography is centered on the desires and agendas of artists, in convergence with the social dynamics of South Asia. The videos construct multi-referential narratives that examine contemporary conditions such as displacement and community formation, or create poetic narratives on lost artistic legacies, often against the backdrop of colonialism and other forms of occupation.

The nineteen artists represented in this exhibition are giving form to feelings and tensions—through observation, making, and interpretation—to the shifts emanating from India as both place and idea. Their role as cultural truth seekers is especially apt at a moment when India is emerging as a more central player on the world stage. For many of these artists, globalization is a contradictory process that necessitates a nuanced view of political power, conventional identities and legacies of visual arts and culture.

Participating artists are Ayisha Abraham, Rina Banerjee, CAMP, Nikhil Chopra, Anita Dube, Gauri Gill, Shilpa Gupta, Sunil Gupta, Siddhartha Kararwal, Dhruv Malhotra, The Otolith Group, Shreshta Rit Premnath, Pushpamala N., Raqs Media Collective, Tejal Shah, Sudarshan Shetty, Bharat Sikka, Anup Mathew Thomas, and Thukral & Tagra.

As part of the exhibition, YBCA presents two public programs:

“Trading Ideas: Emerging Discourses on Asian Contemporary Art”
November 9, 6:30 pm
A two-part panel discussion about contemporary art and social contexts in philosophical turns, and rebalancing notions of cultural specificity and global spheres of influence in contemporary art. Organized by Xiaoyu Weng, director, Asian Contemporary Art Consortium and Betti-Sue Hertz, director of visual arts, YBCA, in collaboration with the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

“Making India Visible: Visual Culture and Modern Art in Contemporary India”
November 10–12, 2011
This three-day symposium, organized by Center for South Asia, Stanford University, is devoted to a broad yet theoretically incisive exploration of visual culture, nation, and art in contemporary India. The first two days take place at Stanford University’s Humanities Center. The third day takes place at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and is organized in collaboration with YBCA.

The Matter Within is organized by YBCA and curated by director of visual arts Betti-Sue Hertz. It will be on view simultaneously with the Asian Art Museum’s Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts exhibition, touring from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, on view from October 21, 2011 through April 8, 2012.

For more on The Matter Within, artist bios and visitor information, see

The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India
RSVP for The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)
October 20, 2011

Thank you for your RSVP.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) will be in touch.

I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for subscribing to e-flux

Feel free to subscribe to additional content from the e-flux platform.