L.H.O.O.Q.: In Bronze and Magnified
By Maria Goldverg
posted: 02-27-11
Et Tu, Duchamp?, Subodh Gupta, 2009
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Often appropriating traditional household objects and using them as the base ingredient for large-scale sculpture projects, Subodh Gupta has garnered a significant amount of attention both within his native India and abroad. Gupta’s final installations--even when amassed from hundreds of simple water utensils, as seen in Spill (2007)--are always glistening and grandiose. This juxtaposition between the ordinary and the, somehow, extraordinary is ever at the forefront of Gupta’s thinking as an artist and critic, and draws heavily from conceptualist provocations of the fetishized commodity form. Without leaving or falsifying his contemporary seat, Gupta, unlike the his leftist peers in the art and academic circles of the West, sculpts an aesthetic interrogation of what the amalgam of India’s complex, ancient heritage and the freshly minted influence of mass consumption could become.

His debt to the European and American avant-garde, however, is overt: most recently, Gupta has garnered attention for a reimagining of Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. (1919) in Et Tu, Duchamp? (2009). And while the speaker of the title’s Caesarian query is left unspecified; it should be safe to assume that Gupta himself is accusing Duchamp, the often cited influence on Gupta's work, for settling into the classical artistic space modeled in Et Tu, Duchamp? ’s physical presence--that of a bronzed and immutable, if transgender, bust.

Gupta has properly called himself an idol thief: every aspect of Et Tu... is a citational graft. And, the question of whether the newest Mona Lisa belongs to the powerful category of conceptually 'underived' Art, as Duchamp's supposedly had, becomes irrelevant. Perhaps, what remains at stake for Gupta is reinvigorating the avant-garde’s dethronement, and interrogation of what "Art" could mean within the contemporary Indian landscape.

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