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Bharti Kher’s monumental maternal figure goes on show in Manhattan

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Bharti Kher’s monumental maternal figure goes on show in Manhattan
Bharti Kher, Ancestor, 2022 Courtesy the artist; Hauser & Wirth; Perrotin; Nature Morte, New Delhi; and is in the collection of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi. Presented by Public Art Fund at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, New York City, September 8, 2022—August 27, 2023. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY

When Bharti Kher first worked found objects into her art, she believed the practice would be only temporary. The British-born artist of Indian heritage studied painting in Great Britain before relocating to New Delhi in her early twenties. Once at work in India, she started to incorporate self-adhesive bindis – the cosmetic, decorative dot worn in the center of the forehead by many women on that subcontinent – in her pictures. “I thought that I would perhaps use them for a while,” she said recently. “But when I started to really look, and keep pushing the material, I think what I was able to do was incorporate it into my practice and make it integrally mine and a language that I could then speak.” 

Bharti Kher, Ancestor, 2022 Courtesy the artist; Hauser & Wirth; Perrotin; Nature Morte, New Delhi; and is in the collection of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi. Presented by Public Art Fund at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, New York City, September 8, 2022—August 27, 2023. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY

From that tiny dot, great works have grown, the latest of which is now on show in Central Park. Entitled Ancestor, 2022 this eighteen-feet-tall bronze figure is an enlarged version of Kher’s “Intermediaries” works – a series of sculptures fashioned from parts of clay figurines produced in southern India, which the artist had collected over many years.

She began work on this series in 2016, shipping hundreds of these pieces of pottery to her Delhi studio. Many were broken in transit, and, rather than ditching the shards, she began to pair the pieces up into human hybrids. “In their predicament of being broken, I was introduced to the ancient ardhanarishvara principle of the dualities of male female energies,” the artist told the Times of India.

 

Bharti Kher, Ancestor, 2022 Courtesy the artist; Hauser & Wirth; Perrotin; Nature Morte, New Delhi; and is in the collection of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi. Presented by Public Art Fund at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, New York City, September 8, 2022—August 27, 2023. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY

 

These were shown in Venice during the Biennale, were praised for the way in which they express cultural slippage and selfhood; now serve as the basis for Bharti’s monumental new work, unveiled a few days ago at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza on Central Park’s south-eastern edge.

The new sculpture, though related to Intermediaries, clearly forms part of the matrilineal line. Ancestor, 2022 has the heads of her offspring emerging from her back, shoulders and belly, and is very much a maternal figure.

“The mother is a universal symbol of care,” the artist told Artnews following the unveiling. “She is the earth, sea, and skies. This mother is draped in a sari, with a small child hiding behind its folds. Her name Ancestor is a mythical and powerful female force that pays homage to the generations before and after her.”

Bharti Kher, Ancestor, 2022 Courtesy the artist; Hauser & Wirth; Perrotin; Nature Morte, New Delhi; and is in the collection of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi. Presented by Public Art Fund at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, New York City, September 8, 2022—August 27, 2023. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY

 

It’s a beautiful, slightly overpowering painted bronze work, which the artist hopes will serve as both a reliquary for old sentiments, and a starting point for something new.

“I invite viewers to leave their wishes, dreams and prayers with Ancestor; and to pass on their wisdom of living and love to the next generation,” Kher said. “She is the keeper of all memories and time. A vessel for you to travel into the future, a guide to search and honor our past histories, and a companion – right here, right now – in New York City.”
 

BHARTI KHER - Grey not Black, not White, 2017

Full color digital archival print on Epson Hot Press Natural 330g/m2
24.00 x 20.00 in 61.0 x 50.8 cm Edition of 100

 

If you're interested in the work of Bharti Kher, you might be interested to know that Artspace recently collaborated with the artist on a very special, limited edition print called Grey not Black, not White. The full color digital archival print on Epson Hot Press Natural 330g/m2 paper, measures 24.00 x 20.00 in (61.0 x 50.8 cm) and comes in a limited edition of 100. This signature abstract work includes bindi detailing, and expresses many of the elements of the cross-cultural identity some of us feel in an increasingly globalized world. Find out more about the limited edition on Bharti Kher's artist page on Artspace here.

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