James Cohan is pleased to present A Time to Play: New Scenes from Acts of Appearance, an exhibition by Gauri Gill, opening October 7, 2021 at 52 Walker Street. This is Gill’s first solo exhibition with James Cohan and inaugurates the gallery’s new Tribeca space. The gallery will host a masked reception on Thursday, October 7 from 6-8 PM.
To explore the exhibition in our Viewing Room, please click here.
A central tenet in Delhi-based Gauri Gill’s practice is her exploration of collaborative partnerships as a means to blur the line between photographer and subject. This exhibition brings together new works from two of Gill’s collaborative series Acts of Appearance and Fields of Sight.
Since 2013, Gill and renowned Warli painter Rajesh Vangad have worked together on Fields of Sight, a series of photographs taken by Gill and then hand-inscribed in black paint by Vangad, co-creating new imagery of life in Ganjad, a small farming village. These fantastical works combine the contemporary language of photography with that of ancient Warli drawing, a genre of folk art which utilizes the geometric vocabulary of circles, triangles, and squares to symbolize different elements in nature, and the world. In The Great Pandemic, the ravaging effects of the Covid-19 virus are given concrete form. Gill’s photograph captures Vangad as a lone, contemplative figure in a desolate and overcast landscape. A central painted figure representing Dhartari Devi, or the Goddess of the Earth— who normally holds the earth in her hands—now holds aloft a larger-than-life pathogenic structure, which radiates outwards. This work addresses the challenges and devastation of life during a pandemic across the Indian subcontinent, felt most acutely by underserved indigenous communities.
In Acts of Appearance, Gill is interested in generating work that vacillates between reality and otherworldliness. In 2015, she invited renowned mask-makers of the Kokna and Warli tribes of rural Maharashtra, to embark on a collaborative project. Gill drew initial inspiration from the annual Bohada mask festival in Jawhar, where Adivasi indigenous tribal communities enact scenes from Hindu epics and tribal myths, wearing masks personifying their own gods and goddesses. Gill invited two leading proponents of this art, the brothers Subhas and Bhagvan Dharma Kadu, to lead a team of more than thirty artists and volunteers to go beyond the confines of their traditional mask-making and develop a new set of forms. In his commissioned essay for this exhibition, writer Hemant Sareen describes Gill’s proposition as “an invitation to play” and it is precisely this; a chance for the community to push the bounds of their imaginations and create something altogether new. A Time to Play: New Scenes from Acts of Appearance showcases the results of their ongoing collaboration with forty new color photographs, many of them made in 2020.