encounter three cabinets with palette-shaped perforations. Dodiya has often used the cabinet of curiosities, a Wunderkammer reloaded for contemporary times, to perform an annotative function, writing footnotes as it were...
encounter three cabinets with palette-shaped perforations. Dodiya has often used the cabinet of curiosities, a Wunderkammer reloaded for contemporary times, to perform an annotative function, writing footnotes as it were to the unfolding narrative. These particular cabinets shift focus from their shuttered black-and-white palette- windows, which act as a poetic caesura to a lively bric-a-brac of art history and popular culture. Here figurines and curios found in the flea market rub noses with museum magnets bearing the seriousness of high art. This may look like a pleasing disorder of things, but what we have before us is a carefully arranged score of harmonies and discordances. A strange metal boar wrapped in epoxy putty adhesive reminds us of the dynamic Varaha avatar – the mythic boar who miraculously lifted up, on its tusk, Bhudevi, the earth, from her misery. Paired here with a photograph of a fingerprint from ‘Blackmail’, it testifies to an uncanny forensics of the male artist’s mind: the tussle between the rescuer and the aggressor/violator. In the windows below, an image from one of Picasso’s preparatory drawings for ‘Guernica’ (1937) – the head of an anguished woman looking skyward – is neighbour to a weird curio, a set of vases fused together. Picasso saw women as ‘suffering machines’. Notoriously, hereduced his muse and partner Dora Maar – a strong woman and a gifted photographer – to a tortured being. His representation of Maar as a ‘Weeping Woman’ reveals the artist’s oscillation between his sadistic desire to eviscerate the female form and his
veneration of the Catholic archetype of the mourning Madonna. The adjacent milk-white vases could allude to upturned udders sucked dry. If Picasso regarded women as ‘suffering machines’ and represented their bodies through violent distortion, Degas, as we have seen, liked to depict women – who he described as his “little monkey girls” – in the act of “cracking their joints” while rehearsing for the ballet. In a previous generation, Ingres had been more gallant – he had distorted the reclining bodies of his women sitters more gently and elegantly. Ingres’ ‘Odalisque in Grisaille’ (1824-1834) had been criticized, when exhibited, as a bizarre work: its protagonist, already drawn from the exotic realm of the Ottoman andarunor seraglio, had one vertebra too many, a twisted pelvis, and an enormously long arm. In one of the cabinets in this exhibition, Dodiya places a reproduction of Ingres’ much- maligned painting, which, in fact, is a magnificent symphony of grey tonalities. This choice, I think, is not accidental. This Oriental fantasy – which fractures the ideal protocols of a neo-classical, proportionate beauty by literally stretching them to an extreme – bears an intense affinity with Dodiya’s own love for the extreme, for the bizarre detail, for figures whose spines have been drawn out, loaded and placed under torsion. Also, Ingres’ magnificent play of grey tonalities offers a counterpoint to Hitchcock’s noirish aesthetic, each artist putting monochrome and penumbra to very different use.
Seven Minutes of Blackmail, 2019, Chemould Prescott Road, Muumbai, India