Two Female Contemporary Indian Artists Featured in First Exhibitions at Art Institute

Two Female Contemporary Indian Artists Featured in First Exhibitions at Art Institute

In the coming weeks, the Art Institute will present two solo exhibitions devoted to the illuminating work of two contemporary women artists from India: Dayanita Singh and Nilima Sheikh. Though pursuing radically different projects-the life of eunuch Mona Ahmed in Delhi and the contested valley of Kashmir-these artists represent the vitality and diversity of contemporary art in India. The work of photographer Dayanita Singh will be on view in Gallery 292 through June 1, 2014, and Nilima Sheikh: Each Night Put Kashmir in Your Dreams will be presented from March 8 through May 18, 2014 in Galleries 182-184.

Dayanita Singh
On view through June 1, 2014

Although she began her career in photojournalism, Delhi-based artist Dayanita Singh (b. 1961) now considers herself "a bookmaker working with photography." For over 30 years she has worked on interconnected projects that take their form as artist's books, photographic series, and most recently, freestanding sculptures. The Art Institute's exhibition presents one of Singh's earliest series, Myself Mona Ahmed (1989-2001), newly acquired by the museum, paired with a recent related work, Museum of Chance (2013).

Singh first met the outcast eunuch Mona Ahmed while on a magazine assignment in 1989. The two remain very close to this day and together consider what it means to be truly unique in the world: "She wanted to tell the story," writes Singh, "of being neither here nor there, neither male nor female, and finally, neither a eunuch nor someone like me." Although the project culminated in a book published in 2001, Singh continues to photograph Mona Ahmed, and images of her appear frequently in recent projects, including Museum of Chance -one of several large, wooden structures that she began making last year. Each Museum structure contains a group of photographs that span Singh's artistic career, and can be opened and placed in various configurations so that at any given time only a portion of the photographs is on view, while others wait their turn within the structure. Seen together, Museum of Chance and Myself Mona Ahmed offer insight into three decades of Dayanita Singh's evolving and inventive artistic career.

Dayanita Singh studied Visual Communication at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad and Documentary Photography at the International Center of Photography in New York. She has published twelve artist books, and in 2008 she held a Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. She has had solo exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery, London (2013); Frith Street Gallery (2012 and 2008); Nature Morte, New Delhi (2012); King's India Institute, KCL, London (2012); Museum voor Fotografie, Amsterdam and Mapfre Foundation, Madrid (2010); the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, Boston (2005); and Hamburger Bahnhof Museum for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2003). This is her first exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.

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