Artists

Chitra Ganesh (b. 1975 Brooklyn, New York, USA) received a BA in Art-Semiotics and Comparative Literature from Brown University, Providence, RI in 1996. She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2001 and received her MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University, NY in 2002. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, USA. 

 

Across a twenty-year practice, Chitra Ganesh has developed an expansive body of work rooted in drawing and painting, which has evolved to encompass animations, wall drawings, collages, computer generated imagery, video, and sculpture. Through a multidisciplinary approach, Ganesh has “catalysed a long- standing investigation of narrative and imagery anchored in historical South Asia and extending to contemporary global concerns. Her work challenges and disrupts conventions of gender, sexuality and power, particularly by centering or reorienting complex narratives – often of mythological or epic proportion – around iconic female protagonists and forms.” 1

 

Ganesh’s oeuvre is informed by her studies in literature and semiotic theory, and regular travels to India, with particular interest in Indian film and music. Combined with her upbringing in New York City’s far reaching urban and cultural landscape, these influences taken together yield a distinct perspective. In detailed works, Ganesh combines a vast array of influences including South Asian iconography, science fiction and queer theory, with the visual languages of vintage comics, Bollywood posters, and video games.

 

Ganesh’s explorations of mythologies and narrative traditions bring important historical conversations to the contemporary moment. In nonlinear narratives and richly layered visual worlds, Ganesh subverts traditional storytelling to create women and queer centric narratives of the future. She draws out alternative depictions of sexuality and power from popular stories and histories, highlighting the accounts of female protagonists, which have often been subsumed or marginalized by plot lines that reproduce the contours of majoritarian power. In Ganesh’s work, women and queer characters become the protagonists, actively shaping their futures. She encourages the viewer to see what was always there – what was once in the ‘margins of a mythic history’2 is brought to the foreground.

 

One of her earliest works, Tales of Amnesia (2002), takes the form of a 24-page comic book and installation exploring the Amar Chitra Katha (Immortal Picture Stories) – a widely disseminated Indian comic book series, initiated in 1967 as an educational tool to teach stories from Indian folklore and fables in a mass mediated, popular form. In Ganesh’s bold departure, her work critiques subtexts of racial, religious, casteist, patriarchal and socio-economic prejudices, while rendering historically marginal figures as central actors that exceed formal conventions of representation.

 

A recent work, The Scorpion Gesture, commissioned by the Rubin Museum of Art, NY in 2018, has been shown in several distinct iterations, including at the Kochi Biennial, India and in Times Square’s longstanding digital exhibition, Midnight Moment. The Scorpion Gesture refers to a mudra – a traditional Tibetan hand gesture said to have ‘unlimited power and potential for transformation.’ In this immersive exhibition, Ganesh integrated her own animations to interact with the sculptures and paintings of the Rubin’s collection, layering new context to encourage formal engagement with the artefacts. In her 2018 exhibition, Her Garden, A Mirror at The Kitchen, Ganesh extended “explorations of gender and power in a futurist imaginary, taking as a point of departure the utopian, sci-fi novella from 1905 called Sultana's Dream by Bengali author and social reformer Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain.” 3

 

Interweaving disparate visual idioms, mythic and speculative narratives, and shape-shifting bodies that exceed their limits, Ganesh’s extensive exploration invites viewers to consider alternate narratives of sexuality and power. There are always untold stories trying to rise to the surface.

  

Ganesh's work has been widely exhibited in the United States and internationally, including solo shows at Brooklyn Museum, NY,USA; MoMA PS1, NY, USA; The Kitchen, NY, USA; The Rubin Museum of Art, NY, USA; The Andy Warhol Museum, PA, USA; Gothenburg Kunsthalle, Sweden; and Times Square, NY,USA. Her work has also been exhibited in important group exhibitions at The Walker Art Center, MN, USA; the Baltimore Museum of Art, MD, USA; The Queens Museum of Art, NY, USA; The Asia Society, NY, USA; The Bronx Museum, NY, USA; The Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX, USA; the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, CA, USA; the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, CA, USA; the Boca Raton Museum of Art, LA, USA; the Hayward Gallery, London, UK; Saatchi Museum, London, UK: Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Italy; Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Italy; the ZKM Center for Art and Media, Germany; Göteborgs Konsthall, Germany; Arthotek Kunstverein, Göttingen, Germany; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China; the Gwangju Contemporary Arts Centre, Korea; the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai, India; Indira Ghandi National Centre for Arts, New Delhi, India; Devi Art Foundation, India; the Kochi Biennial, India; the Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh among others.

 

Ganesh’s work is represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, NY, USA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA, USA; the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, USA; The Brooklyn Museum, NY, USA; The Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; The Ford Foundation, NY, USA; University of Michigan Museum of Art, MI, USA; The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, PA, USA; the Devi Art Foundation, India; Kiran Nadar Museum, Delhi, India; the Saatchi Collection, London, UK; Burger Collection, Hong Kong; Deutsche Bank, among others.

 

Ganesh is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts; Printed Matter; the Art Matters Foundation; the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in the Creative Arts; the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award for Painters and Sculptors; and the Hodder Fellowship from the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, and the Pollock Krasner Foundation.

 


 

[1] Citron, Beth. (2019) Numero Art

[2] Shah, Svati P. (2011) Knowing the Unknowns: The Artwork of Chitra Ganesh, Feminist Studies Volume 37 p122

[3] https://thekitchen.org/event/chitra-ganesh-her-garden-a-mirror