Comprising over 40 major paintings and works on paper drawn from leading public institutions and private collections across Asia, Europe, and the United States, this is the first retrospective exhibition dedicated to the work of celebrated Indian modern painter Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde (1924–2001). As current scholarship revisits traditions of mid-20th-century modern art outside of the Euro-American paradigm, Gaitonde’s work presents an unparalleled opportunity to explore Indian modern art as it played out in the metropolitan centers of Bombay (now Mumbai) and New Delhi from the late 1940s through the end of the 20th century.
Born in Nagpur, India, Gaitonde was an artist of singular stature, known as a man of uncompromising artistic integrity of spirit and purpose. Gaitonde began developing a nonobjective style in the late 1950s and then turned towards abstraction echoes.
A transnational set of references and influences provides an art historical context for Gaitonde’s work and defines this exhibition. The artist’s work spans the traditions of nonobjective painting and Zen Buddhism, adopting itsethics in his life and creative practice, as well as Indian miniatures, East Asian hanging scrolls, and ink paintings.
Including many works that have not been seen by the public, this exhibition reveals Gaitonde’s extraordinary use of color, line, form, and texture, as well as symbolic elements and calligraphy, in works that glow with an inner light. The artist often spent months conceiving a new composition, but allowed accident and play ultimately to inform the making of his art. Starting in the early ’60s, he employed palette knives and paint rollers, and later torn pieces of newspaper and magazines, to create abstract forms through a “lift-off” technique. The resulting paintings have a sense of weightlessness, though their texture asserts physicality and presence.
Gaitonde’s output, however, continues to be defined by the particular ethos of India, where the artist lived and worked his entire life.