In this country, when we want to impress someone with the passage of time, we say, "This thing is literally a hundred years old." This habit must be hilarious to the rest of the world; think of India, for example. Indian painter Shalinee Kumari works in the tradition of Mithila painting; no one knows how old the art form is exactly, but informed guesses start at 750 years older than Christ. It may be literally only 600 years old, but either way, you get the point. The work at Kumari's "American Debut" takes that old, old tradition and extends it, politicizes it, and makes it specific to the artist's own point of view. To put it in perspective, Americans rarely ever even see museum artifacts as old as the established form Kumari is going all punk rock on. Her subjects trade the usual religious and fertility scenes for global warming conferences or a Mumbai hotel on fire; one of her canvases is titled Women Can Do Everything Now. Mithila paintings have always been made by women, but not like this.
June 18-July 19, 2009