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Indian Art Exhibit Opening at San Jose Museum of Art

Want to see some modern art? Right now, visitors at the San Jose Museum of Art will be greeted by the mysterious Sky Cathedral wall, crafted by sculptor Louise Nevelson. On the same floor is an enlightening exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographed portraits, which include images of about a hundred big names in pop culture, including Andy Warhol, Susan Sarandon, and Patti Smith.

Those seeking modern art and cultural enrichment will be pleased to know that the San Jose Museum of Art opened a new exhibition to the general public called “Roots in the Air, Branches Below: Modern and Contemporary Art from India.” Running from Feb. 25 to Sept. 4, this exhibition features the work of Indian artists, many of whom were active in the arts scene after India gained independence from British rule in 1947.

“Indian art is a fast-growing presence in the art scene,” says Sherrill Ingalls, director of marketing and communications at the San Jose Museum of Art. “We’re here in Silicon Valley, which is an ethnically diverse part of the country. One of our goals is to engage with this diverse population and introduce different works of art to people.”

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According to Ingalls, the museum staff worked with a number of people in the community to put together this exhibition. Pieces of the entire exhibition, which entails 40 different artists and 60 works, were taken from 11 private collections in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Some markers of western art, such as European modernism and cubism, are detectable in some modern Indian art. Kristen Evangelista, associate curator at the San Jose Museum of Art, discusses some styles of Indian art.

“Some of the works in the exhibit depict mythological themes based in Hinduism and Buddhism,” Evangelista says. “Some of the artists are inspired by Indian miniatures- this was a style of painting involving [small pieces], vibrant color palettes, and two-dimensional spaces.”

The exhibition features paintings by members of the respected Progressive Artists’ Group formed in 1947 in Mumbai. Maqbool Fida Husain was one of the leaders of this movement. Dubbed “the Picasso of India,” Husain crafted many modernist paintings, including one of free roaming creatures in “Untitled (Horses),” an allusion to India’s freedom from British rule. Also featured in the exhibition is the work of Vinod Balak, a contemporary artist of India. His painting, “Vishnu with Bonsai,” is a present-day depiction of a Hindu god in running gear sprawled out on his couch after an exhausting workout from overseeing the universe.

The San Jose Museum of Art will host many events connected to “Roots in the Air, Branches Below: Modern and Contemporary Art from India. There was an opening reception for museum members on Feb. 24. Other public events will include lunchtime lectures, a gallery tour, an “Artrage” social cocktail event, and a free community day with hands-on activities and art demonstrations.

Visit www.sanjosemuseumofart.org/visit/calendar for details on the dates and times of events. The museum is located at 110 South Market Street in San Jose.

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