Indian-American artist to be featured in major exhibition in Philadelphia

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The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), among the oldest art museums in the country, is presenting the works of Indian-American artist/sculptor Rina Banerjee, starting this Oct. 27 and continuing till March 31 next year.

Rina Banerjee, Take me, take me, take me…to the Palace of love, 2003, plastic, wood chair, steel and copper framework, floral picks, foam balls, cowrie shells, quilting pins, moss, stone globe, glass, synthentic fabric, fake birds, 13 x 13 x 18 ft. (Photo courtesy PAFA – pafa.org)

“Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World” is the first mid-career retrospective on the contemporary practice of Rina Banerjee, co-organized with the San José Museum of Art, California (SJMA). The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is among the oldest museums in the country, founded in 1805 by painter and scientist Charles Willson Peale, sculptor William Rush, and other artists and business leaders.

Banerjee is known for her large-scale sculptures and installations made from materials from around the world. Her works explore “the splintered experiences of identity, tradition, and culture, prevalent in diasporic communities,” a press release from PAFA, says.  T

The exhibit will be accompanied by extensive programming and a full-color, 160-page catalog co-published with PAFA and SJMA. The exhibition will then open at SJMA from May 18, 2019–October 6, 2019, before embarking on a national tour.

The India-born artist is considered one of the most important artists of the post-colonial Indian diaspora living in the United States and her work has been shown most extensively in Europe and South Asia, the press release said.

“This exhibition, the first in-depth examination of the artist’s work, will consider Banerjee in both American and global frameworks, specifically in relation to Banerjee’s intersectional approach to feminism,” PAFA said.

Curator of Contemporary Art at PAFA, Jodi Throckmorton called it a “defining” moment for the Indian-American artist, tracing her work over twenty years, culminating in sculptures made for the 57th Venice Biennale and 2017 Prospect Triennial in New Orleans— “important exhibitions that reflect one of the most exciting periods of recognition in Rina’s career.”

Bringing together several of Banerjee’s monumental installations in conversation with more than two dozen sculptures, as well as a thorough selection of works on paper, Make Me a Summary of the World will transform PAFA into an otherworldly and multi-sensory space, the museum said in the press release.

Banerjee’s art uses a variety of gathered materials ranging from African tribal jewelry to colorful feathers, light bulbs, and Murano glass and raises tensions and questions about exoticism, cultural appropriation, globalization and feminism. “Banerjee’s art celebrates diversity at every level,” PAFA says.

“It’s also a necessary project for the first art museum in the country because Banerjee continually and aggressively examines what it means to be an American artist,” Brooke Davis Anderson, the Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum, is quoted saying in the press release. “Through the lens of gender, race, class, and from the point of view of being from somewhere else, Rina voices through color, form, texture, scale, and found objects conversations about democracy and equality,” Davis Anderson says.

Born in Calcutta in 1963, Banerjee grew up in the United Kingdom and the United States. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Polymer Engineering from Case Western in 1993 and took a job as a polymer research chemist. She left the science profession after several years and today divides her time between New York City and Philadelphia,.

She has exhibited in New York, Paris, London, Tokyo, and New Delhi. One of her most prestigious shows was a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC in 2013. Her works are also included in several private and public collections such as at the Whitney Museum of American Art (NY), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Centre George Pompidou, Paris, France; Queens Museum (NY); and the Brooklyn Museum (NY).

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts recently acquired two of Banerjee’s artworks for its permanent collection and they are included in the exhibition.

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