The Short North gallery's newest show opens today, providing a kaleidoscopic view of the country's art.
Before Ron Pizzuti traveled to India, people warned him that the country’s poverty could be depressing. But the Columbus real estate magnate and art collector left with an entirely different impression.
“I didn’t come back depressed,” Pizzuti says. “I found it spiritual.”
On the last day of February, he welcomed a small crowd of reporters to the Pizzuti Collection, his 3-year-old Short North gallery, by recounting highlights of his trip, equating it to visiting the Vatican. The Collection’s fourth major exhibition, Visions from India, offers a glimpse of the Asian country’s most renowned artists; Pizzuti says that seven of the top 10 in the world are on display. In all, 27 artists produced the 44 pieces in Transforming Vision, the contemporary half of the exhibition. A parallel exhibition, The Progressive Master, features works by Francis Newton Souza from the Rajadhyaksha Collection, considered by many to be the forefather of contemporary Indian art. “I think it’s the best thing we’ve done yet,” Pizzuti says.
Visions from India opens to the public today and runs through Oct. 28, though the gallery’s employees hope there’s enough public interest to justify extending it. They also anticipate the exhibition’s long run will allow visits from some of the artists, and there are plans to hold several events highlighting Indian culture at the Pizzuti Collection, like yoga, meditation and dancing. “Along with the artwork, this is going to be a year of celebration,” says curator Greer Pagano.
Pagano offered a media tour through the gallery’s three stories, covering the highlights of an exhibition that includes a vast array of styles, from Souza’s figurative works to abstract pieces to provocative sculptures and mixed-media installations. Though some art plays on traditional Indian imagery, other works touch on global subjects that transcend any specific country or region.
Illusion and perspective distortion emerge as common themes—several artists toy with the idea of what something appears to be and what actually exists (or doesn’t). Here are some of the most striking examples.
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The untitled work below from Anish Kapoor, who also created “Cloud Gate” in Chicago’s Millennium Park (nicknamed “The Bean”), had been in Ron and Ann Pizzuti’s home collection for years before becoming a part of this exhibition. It appears straightforward at first, a blue disc on a white wall, before eventually taking on the appearance of a 3-D orb when viewed head-on. Its concave surface also flips the viewer’s orientation to the room—here, I crouch on the ceiling while taking a photograph.
From the side, the simplicity of Kapoor’s design belies its mesmerizing effect.
At first blush, Dia Mehta Bhupal’s art also looks ordinary. Pizzuti wasn’t particularly interested when he first encountered it, until he learned its backstory. Bhupal takes pieces of paper from old magazines and rolls them into building blocks for her life-size sets of generic public places, like the waiting room below. The process can take years. Then she photographs the set and dismantles it. The result: a simulacrum of a place we all know but only she has visited, one that no longer exists—a thing both real and not. The more I looked, the more I felt compelled to peer around the corner.
And then there’s the “rug.” Sudarshan Shetty’s work lies in a darkened room, lit from above by spotlights. It’s like stumbling onto a sacred murder scene. Shetty also created the magnificent teak archway (“For all that we lose”) that greets visitors in an upper room; the rug tucked away on the bottom floor feels scandalous by comparison, like it represents something indecent.
Like much of Visions of India, everything is not quite what it seems. The intricately patterned textile isn’t woven from fabric at all; it’s an absurdly detailed carving, pieced together from wooden panels, and a closer look reveals glued seams and slight spaces between sections. The wooden knotholes provide another potential layer—some of the Pizzuti staff have taken to calling them bullet holes. Is that what Shetty intended? I can’t help but stare and wonder.