Friday, June 18, 2010

Old Wine, Not so New Bottle

My response to Prasad Raghavan’s show entitled “Shot Tilt” (currently showing at Gallery BMB) was strangely schizophrenic. In this show, the artist deals with themes such as excessive consumption, urbanization, greed and culpability. He explores the human preoccupation with ;things,' and the toll this extracts from society and the environment.

When I first entered the gallery, I was pleasantly surprised. The themes were topical – not in the strangely distant way that art sometimes tends to be – but in a way that seemed very current and relevant. Art is sometimes embarrassed about embracing the immediate – this show was not. And the works themselves were easy to decode and relate to – something of a comfort in these days of almost extreme abstraction. Raghavan provided enough hooks, both explicit and implicit, to allow a viewer to engage with the show.

But as I wound my way around the gallery, I began to experience a sense of deja-vu. I had seen these works before. A riff on Warhol’s soup cans to bring to mind assembly lines, and reiterate the ‘consumability’ of modern culture? Check. Collages composed of millions of cars, plastic bags, high-rise buildings and smut to depict excess? Check. An installation reminding us of the hypocrisy of branding and globalization? Check. Puns on movie posters? Check.

I left the gallery annoyed with the predictability that permeated the entire show. It seemed as if Raghavan had strung together standard-issue elements protesting the encroachment of goods and globalization, with little imagination. It was the kind of show where the artist fooled himself into thinking that he was contributing something new to a larger, ongoing dialogue, and invited the viewer to participate in the deception. Recommended only for those who can take their clichés with a pinch of salt. 

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