In a world where the idea of value is equated with luxury, status and rarity, Subodh Gupta has made it a point to elevate the everyday. His latest exhibition ‘Seven Billion Light Years’, recently opened at Hauser & Wirth’s Chelsea gallery in New York, showcases the full breadth of his readymade way of thinking. Spanning installations, sculptures and films from across the artist’s career, and debuting a new series of paintings, the works collectively comment on everyday life in India, while weaving in hints of existentialism along the way.
Gupta's affection for readymade objects has not only made him a recognisable fixture in the contemporary art world, but an ambassador of Indian culture as well. The New Delhi-based artist’s paintings, also titled ‘Seven Billion Light Years’, present everyday utensils like well-worn dishes and scratched metal pans, at a magnified scale. Painted with exacting detail on canvases over two metres high, the familiar objects take on an otherworldly and infinite quality. Gupta has also attached the original objects onto the paintings, creating a bond between the two entities like planets in orbit that plays into his ongoing dialogue about the distance between mortal life and the greater cosmos.
Gupta's use of found objects may give his works Duchampian and Surrealist undertones, but metaphors aside, they articulate the tensions and dichotomies of everyday Indian life. 'When I see utensils, it gives me a feeling I can’t describe. I get very excited,’ says Gupta, of his process. 'The marks of the utensils just tell me so many stories and I feel them so completely.'
One of the show’s highlights is the installation, ‘This is not a fountain’ (2011-2013), an assemblage of aluminium cooking vessels and taps that spout running water, measuring 12 feet in length. Another work entitled ‘My Family Portrait’ (2013) sees each family member represented as hanging racks of metal utensils, kitchen tools and tableware. These affectionate yet unvarnished personifications dial into the social, economic and cultural idiosyncrasies of India in a lighthearted yet poignant way.
Hauser & Wirth's exhibition will coincide with the unveiling of another major new work from Gupta at ‘After Midnight: Indian Modernism to Contemporary India 1947/1997’, which opens at the Queens Museum in New York on 8 March 2015.