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January 10 – February 15, 2020
Reception: Friday, January 10, 5-8 pm
Gallery Talk: Thursday, January 30, 6 pm

Division, Commonality, Encounter, brings together the work of four artists who focus on fundamental human needs and desires. This show tells a story about how people unite and divide themselves in many ways, and how struggle can form community and transform into hope, even as human beings persist in their attempts to categorize and order a disorderly world. Each of the four artists is informed by their own experience of migration, movement among places, and living in different communities and societies. The artists’ own movements and life experiences and their encounters with diverse communities and societies have shifted their focus toward this story of humans finding their place in the world and among each other. While working in a variety of media, all of the artists are united by the strong linear quality of their work. The importance of the line, whether in the expression of minute detail, the training of thread and stitching, or the scrolling lines which connect people to their desires and illustrate the human encounter with the natural world, draws the viewer through the exhibition. The linear pull through the artists’ works visually expresses the narration of individual stories and the connections between the stories each artist tells.

Each of the artists’ works makes a unique contribution to the main themes of the show: commonality, division and encounter. Alison Byrnes Rivett exhibits a series entitled “Paradoxa” which explores Carl Linnaeus’s classification system for the natural world. Her work, which explores the animals, real and imagined, that Linnaeus could not classify, and therefore were grouped together into the catch-all category of Paradoxa, highlights how humans interact with the natural world. The works draw attention to the human need to classify and organize, to divide the world we encounter into intelligible units, even when that seems impossible. Balbir Krishan’s paintings examine the human body, and in particular the dichotomy between the imaginations and realities of masculinity. Informed by his own life experience as a member of the LGBT community, these paintings speak not only to the body itself, but to the universality of human sexuality, the restrictions which societies attempt to place on the expression of that sexuality, and how hope and love can spring up and unite in the face of struggle. Sajeev Visweswaran uses his work to address the struggle between the powerful and the powerless by focusing on the struggles, great and small, of minority groups in his home country of India. By rendering the unique images and characteristics of individuals, both among the crowd and as people with unique life histories, his work resists the attempts of the state to interact with communities as monoliths and calls on the viewer to recall the individual humanity of oppressed classes. “Soft Shelters,” Sharmistha Kar’s installations, probes the form of a tent, and therefore the forms and manifestations of shelter and living spaces, both through the shape of the base materials themselves and the repeated images of the tent stitched on their surfaces. Her inquiry into the tent as an object, and in particular as a temporary structure, draws attention to the experience of migrants and refugees, who face division from their communities and homes at the same time as hope for new lives and the safety guaranteed by their shelters.

–Sajeev Visweswaran, Curator

Sharmistha Kar is an art practitioner from India and currently living and working in London, Ontario. She holds an MFA from Western University, focusing on hand embroidery. Kar’s early education began in West Bengal, India and later continued in Hyderabad where she pursued higher education in Fine arts at the University of Hyderabad in 2009. She then pursued her studio practice as an invited artist at Space studio, returning to Hyderabad in 2012 to join the International Institute of Information Technology as a lecturer. She was awarded with the prestigious Charles Wallace India Trust Award to do three months ‘artist in residence program’ at Newcastle University, United Kingdom in 2013. After her return, she worked as a visiting faculty member at Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University in Hyderabad. She was awarded with Gold medal for First rank as an MFA, University of Hyderabad in 2009; and Dean’s and Chair’s Entrance Scholarships at Western in 2016, as well as the Graduate Thesis research Award in 2018.

Alison Byrnes Rivett engages historical imaginaries, with a foundation in years of study of the Latin language, while she probes visual cultures influenced by her time living in India. She returned to the USA in 2016 after teaching art and design for seven years at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design & Technology in Bangalore. There, she researched and taught visual narrative strategies, museum and gallery practices, illustration, and exhibition design. She taught painting at the Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan prior to that and worked in the Exhibition Design department at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. She completed an MFA from the Stamps School, along with a Museum Studies Certificate. The Women’s Studio Workshop awarded her a book residency in 2013, where she completed Scientific Theories Once Widely Believed, Since Proven Wrong, a hand screen-printed hand-bound book in an edition of 60. She is originally from East Troy, Wisconsin, a town of 2500, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she completed a BA in Classics and a BS in Art. She currently works at the University of Michigan while pursuing a master’s degree at the Center for Higher and Postsecondary Education.

Balbir Krishan is a New York and New Delhi-based multimedia artist and Queer activist. His canvases, drawings, and new media work explore societal and personal themes that include race, gender, sex and sexuality, freedom, equality, love, hope, desire, pain and struggle. Balbir work is informed by his autobiography, Indian mythology, human rights and social issues. Balbir is one of the new voices within contemporary art who dwells on the human body as a universal and personal subject. His paintings contain the grim realities and exalted fantasies of masculinity; a meeting place for utopia and dystopia. He and his work have been celebrated by the arts community, as well as subjected to censorship and political pressures, even violent attack, by extremists in India. Balbir is the recipient of Indian national and state awards, including multiple wins of the All India Fine Art and Craft Society’s National Award and the Lalit Kala Akademi Lucknow State Award. Numerous Indian, American, and European-based publications have featured his work. In 2014, The Advocate, the US-based LGBT-interest and news magazine, included his Out Here and Now series of paintings within its Best Art of the Year report. Balbir was born in 1973 in Bijrol, Uttar Pradesh, India. He earned his M.A. and M. Phil in visual art from Agra University Agra, India. He currently lives and works in Albany, New York.

Sajeev Vadakoottu Visweswaran is a visual artist based in Ann Arbor. While he works in many media and styles, drawing always comes at the center of his work. He has maintained a focus on minimalist lines and measures etchings throughout his repertoire. Sajeev’s works draw on the tension between the mundane activities of everyday life and his political sensibilities, between his young life in village India and the world of fine art. He is fascinated by the intersection of the personal and the political, presence and absence, the domestic and the public. Sajeev received his training from the College of Art, New Delhi where he received his BFA, before completing his MVA at M.S. University, Baroda. His first solo show was held at 1,Shanthi Road, Bangalore in 2014, and his works have been selected for several exhibitions and group shows across India, as well as in Korea, Romania and France. He has attended residencies at 1,Shanthi Road, Bangalore in 2014 and the ‘Residence Price’ at the 13th Biennale Internationale de Gravure de Sarcelles, France in 2008. His work was recently selected for The Fifth Graphic Art Biennial of Szeklerland in Sfântu Gheorghe, Romania in 2018.

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