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Bhupen Khakhar, Tate, Berlin

The Goldsmith, 1997

Oil on canvas 

180 x 240 cm 

A master storyteller, Bhupen Khakhar is regarded in his native country and internationally as one of the most important Indian artists of the last 30 years. Although noted for a pictorial language that is deliberately hybrid—a mix of Indian folk-art traditions and modern European realism, sex and religion, modesty and flamboyance—Khakhar is most commonly lauded for pioneering a new contect for homosexuality in Indian art. Paintings, such as Two Men (1992), and watercolors, including Picture of Their 30th Wedding Anniversary (1998), in this recent show are a celebration of male love and fantasy as well as self-portraits addressing the artist's own sexuality. In the anniversary painting, a seated man dressed as a woman fondles another man in a gesture of intimacy that is neither provocative nor innocent but rather a calm declaration of partnership. 

The iconography of gay sexuality and sensuality is, however, only one aspect of Khakhar's esthetic language. Equally compelling is the compositional structure of the larger oils, in which the main images are set amid episodic vignettes. In Goldsmith (1996)—a painting from his "Trader" series highlighting the everyday life of the overlooked artisans of India—Khakhar creates a panoramic tableau centered on the activities of a male figure in a rural village. 

(Excerpted from Laurie A. Stein's review in ARTNews)

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