Indian Popular Visual Culture: The Conquest of the World as Picture

Curated by Dr. Jyotindra Jain

APR 09, 2017 - APR 30, 2017

Special Project Space

The exhibition is presented by the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, the Sanskriti Foundation and the Marg Foundation.

The exhibition offers a critical view of the role played by popular Indian imagery of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the construction of cultural, social and national identities. Images Nineteenth century India witnessed several major cultural and technological transformations - the pedagogy of the colonial art school; exposure to European pictures circulating in the Indian market; the advent of the techniques of engraving, lithography and oleography; the emergence of photography and the proscenium stage - that led to the growth of a new popular imagery. The colonial art school's emphasis on perspective and realism endowed the idealized, traditional imagery with a more tangible and sensual presence. In combination with influences from the newly introduced proscenium theatre, which used powerful iconic and narrative formations, and from photography, which could depict heightened corporeality and individuality, this engendered a new class of popular cultic, mythological and nationalist imagery. Mass production and circulation of this imagery became a potent instrument in creating and negotiating interstices between the sacred, the erotic, the political and the colonial modern.

Mass manufacture of images transformed the very nature of Hindu belief and worship. Through the work of artists like Ravi Varma, 'classical' Hindu mythology was revived, romanticized and circulated all over the country, providing a nation-wide homogeneity to the visual culture of Hinduism. Images including engravings, chromolithographs, oleographs, photographs, postcards and film posters will be on display. The exhibition demonstrates how printing and mass circulation of images widely influenced the nature of belief and worship in India and eventually acted as a powerful vehicle in strengthening the independence movement and the spirit of patriotism.

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About the Curator
Dr. Jyotindra Jain is a member on the Board of Trustees of the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum. He is the Director and Managing Trustee of CIViC: Centre for Indian Visual Culture, New Delhi, and was formerly Director of Crafts Museum; Professor and Dean at the School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University; and Member Secretary of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, all New Delhi. He was an Alexander-von-Humboldt Fellow, a Homi Bhabha Fellow, a Visiting Professor at Harvard University and a Rudolf-Arnheim Visiting Professor at Humboldt University in Berlin. Dr. Jain's major publications, among others, include: Tradition and Expression in Mithila Painting (1996); Other Masters: Five Contemporary Folk and Tribal Artists of India(1998); Picture Showmen: Insights into the Narrative Tradition in Indian Art (1998); Kalighat Painting: Images from a Changing World (1999) and Indian Popular Culture: The Conquest of the World as Picture (2004). Dr. Jain is recipient of the 1998 Prince Claus Award for his contribution to Indian art and culture.