Syracuse University’s Lowe Art Gallery to present first exhibition of North Indian performed folk art in the U.S.
Syracuse University’s Lowe Art Gallery to present first exhibition of North Indian performed folk art in the U.S.November 13, 2002Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
The Joe and Emily Lowe Art Gallery will mount the first original exhibition of North Indian performed folk art in the United States from Nov. 17, 2002, to Jan. 6, 2003-“Beneath the Banyan Tree: Ritual, Remembrance, and Storytelling in Performed North Indian Folk Arts.” Many of the works in the exhibition have never been on public display.
In an essay for the exhibition catalogue, nationally known art historian Stephen P. Huyler notes that some of the terracotta pieces from the Reeves Collection, which are part of the exhibition, are among the earliest remaining examples of the work of Gulab Chand, a potter from the Indian village of Nauranga whose work has been commissioned by museums and other collectors all over the world.
“With this exhibition, we seek to present the folk arts that represent the traditions of the South Asian immigrant community, as well the connection between art and performance and between traditional and contemporary expression,” says Susan Wadley, the Ford Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies in the Maxwell School. “That a Bengali pata now deals with the atom bomb speaks to the intersection of the worlds of India and the United States, and to the importance of linking these voices through the exhibition.”
The exhibition focuses on four major forms of performed folk art that capture the intersection of ritual, performance and art in the living traditions of North India.
Featured will be terracotta and brass sculptures, storytelling scrolls (pata), women’s ritual paintings from the Mithila region of India and large scrolls (par) from Rajasthan that are used by singers to tell epic stories. Reflecting traditions thousands of years old as well as modern events, these art forms remind their audiences of the stories of the gods and goddesses with whom their human devotees share the world. The exhibition also examines the social and artistic changes taking place within these traditions in the 20th and 21st centuries.
“The predominant theme is that these are folk arts that are performed,” Wadley says. “Unlike works by modern artists that are created to be hung on the wall in a house or business for decoration, these largely anonymous folk artists have been creating objects to be used by their patrons in ritual. Some were part of annual cycle rituals, while others would be made to celebrate a wedding or a birth.”
The exhibition will also include two artists-in-residence from Rajasthan, India, who will be traveling to the United States for the first time with an interpreter. During their month-long residency in the gallery, the artists will demonstrate the craft of making story scrolls. The residency was made possible by a grant from the Asian Cultural Council.
In January 2003, parts of the exhibition will travel to the Akureyri Art Museum in Iceland. The exhibition is sponsored by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Central New York Community Foundation, the National Resource Center for South Asian Studies at Syracuse University, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, the Office of the Dean in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), VPA’s Graduate Program in Museum Studies and the Asian Cultural Council.
“This exhibition represents a wonderful opportunity for visitors to explore and make connections between aspects of history, storytelling, writing, performance, social and economic change and a range of artistic traditions and processes,” says Edward Aiken, director of the Lowe Art Gallery and chair of the graduate program in museum studies. “The exhibition is particularly timely, given the prominence of North India in the news headlines and the lack of general cultural knowledge about this region of the world.”
The Joe and Emily Lowe Art Gallery, which is part of Syracuse University’s School of Art and Design in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, is located in the University’s Shaffer Art Building. The gallery is handicapped accessible, and free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and Wednesday, noon to 8 p.m. The Gallery will be closed for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Please call ahead to verify hours during these vacation periods. For more information, call (315) 443-3127.