Exhibition Dates: June until September 29, 2019
Exhibition Location: The Met Breuer, Floor 3

Sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee (1949–2015) will be the subject of a revelatory retrospective at The Met Breuer. Phenomenal Nature: Mrinalini Mukherjee, on view through September 29, 2019, will mark the first comprehensive display of the artist’s work in the United States. Bringing together 57 pieces by Mukherjee, the exhibition will explore the artist’s longstanding engagement with fiber, along with her significant forays into ceramic and bronze from the middle and latter half of her career.

The exhibition is made possible by Nita and Mukesh Ambani and the Reliance Foundation.

Additional support is provided by the Estate of Brooke Astor, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and The Coby Foundation, Ltd.

Max Hollein, Director of The Met commented: “Mukherjee combined her mastery of modern sculpture with inspirations drawn from nature and local Indian tradition to create an outstanding—and groundbreaking—body of work. This important exhibition invites viewers to revel in the commanding presence of these mysterious and sensual objects, while appreciating the innovation and intuition she brought to her art.”

Born in Mumbai in 1949 to artist parents, Mukherjee studied painting, printmaking, and mural making at the M.S. University in Baroda, India, with the influential artist K.G. Subramanyan, who had studied under her father. Subramanyan firmly rejected the Western modernist hierarchy between art and craft and encouraged his students, including Mukherjee, to engage with this legacy. It was under his guidance that Mukherjee first experimented with fiber.

A committed sculptor who worked intuitively, never resorting to a sketch or preparatory drawing, Mukherjee in her forms explored the divide between figuration and abstraction. Nature was her primary inspiration, and this was further informed by her enthusiasm for Indian historic sculpture, modern design, and local crafts and textile traditions. The exhibition will seek to highlight the radical intervention Mukherjee made by adapting crafting techniques with a modernist formalism.

The artist’s fiber forms are physical and organic. She never worked with a loom; instead, knotting became her primary technique and it imbued her sculptures with three-dimensional volume and a sense of monumentality. She used natural as well as hand-dyed ropes sourced from a local market in New Delhi, where she lived and worked. The forms she fashioned are replete with sexual imagery, while some of her large anthropomorphic pieces—in which the vegetal, human, and animal coalesce—at times suggest the imagery of classical Indian sculpture.

Phenomenal Nature will also present the latter half of Mukherjee’s career in the mid-1990s, when, prompted by a residency at the European Ceramics Work Centre in the Netherlands, she began working with ceramics, eventually taking on bronze in 2003. Probing the divide between figuration and abstraction, Mukherjee would go on to fashion unusual, mysterious, sensual, and, at times, unsettlingly grotesque forms, commanding in their presence and scale.

Phenomenal Nature: Mrinalini Mukherjee is organized by Shanay Jhaveri, Assistant Curator of South Asian Art in The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Education programs are made possible by the Henry Moore Foundation and Peter Louis-Chandru Ramchandani.

The exhibition will be featured on the Museum’s website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using hashtag #MrinaliniMukherjee.

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