Research seminar: Contemporaneity in South Asian Art

On Vivan Sundaram’s “Late Style”

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

18.00, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

Woman modelling dress and hat in black and red made from padded bras, blended fabric, lace
“Diva R-E-D” from Gagawaka, by Vivan Sundaram (padded bras, blended fabric, lace) 2011/12. Courtesy of the artist.

Speaker(s): Dr Saloni Mathur (Associate Professor of Art History, University of California, Los Angeles)

Ticket/entry details: Free and open to all

Organised by: Zehra Jumabhoy with Professor Deborah Swallow (The Courtauld Institute of Art, London)

Saloni Mathur is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her lecture, On Vivan Sundaram’s 'Late Style', will explore three recent projects by the Delhi-based artist, Vivan Sundaram; a leading figure of the post-1968 Indian avant-garde and a veteran of critical art practice in the subcontinent.  In the first of these projects (Trash, 2008), Sundaram embraces garbage as a medium. In the latter two (Gagawaka, 2011/12 and Postmortem-After Gagawaka, 2013), he constructs wearable sculptural garments made from recyclables and found objects, and surrealist-like assemblages composed of aged mannequins and anatomical models. Together, these three projects highlight the lightness of fashion, consumerism and haute-couture alongside the heaviness of social concerns related to illness, aging, death and the urban environment under threat. Mathur argues that these projects demonstrate the creative breadth and maturity of Sundaram’s work, pointing towards what the German philosopher Theodor Adorno identified as the artist’s “late style” – a youthful burst of creative energy made possible by a lifetime of preparation in the arts .

Saloni Mathur received her PhD. in Cultural Anthropology in 1998, and is currently Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles.  She is author of India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display (UC Press, 2007), editor of The Migrant’s Time: Rethinking Art History and Diaspora (Yale University Press/Clark Art Institute, 2011), and co-editor (with Kavita Singh) of No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: The Museum in South Asia (forthcoming, Routledge). She is currently completing a new book project titled A Fragile Inheritance: Radical Stakes in Contemporary Indian Art. This lecture will offer us a sneak preview.

About Contemporaneity in South Asian Art:


The lacuna in knowledge regarding modern and contemporary South Asian art in western academic institutions is becoming increasingly evident at a time when numerous survey shows, and some high-profile solo exhibitions, have focused 'international' attention on it. This Seminar Series offers a platform for artists, curators and scholars to discuss urgent issues concerning the Subcontinent. What, after all, does the term “Contemporary South Asian” mean?

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