Pippy Houldsworth Gallery is pleased to present Rina Banerjee’s first solo exhibition in London in over a decade. Comprising new and existing sculptures and works on paper, the exhibition explores diversity and cultural democracy, as well as the reservoirs of greed invested in globalism.
Known for her large-scale sculpture and installation assembled from found materials, Banerjee captures the experiences of diasporic communities worldwide. The artist’s childhood and adolescence was spent in several different places – Kolkata, Manchester, London, New York – and her work is influenced by her own multinationalism and encounters with multiculturalism. Questions of identity, ethnicity, tradition and social engagement are inherent to her practice, which celebrates diversity whilst exploring the harmful impacts of globalisation. Her work is critical of the centralisation of power to a shrinking, delocalised few.
Banerjee’s non-hierarchical approach to material results in mystical assemblages, extravagantly composed, that reflect on migration and such consequent themes as personal and collective memory, and local and global community. Bringing together a variety of natural and synthetic materials, woven and beaded textiles, and tourist trinkets collected from around the world, Banerjee’s work comments on the transformation of consumerism from a local marketplace to an ever-widening surrender to international cosmopolitanism. The scavenged or unearthed objects with which she makes her sculptures range from low craft associated with folk culture, to objects with more ‘exotic’ or expensive origins. Her compelling assemblages surrender objects and antiques to mythologies that cross multiple cultural and geographical locations.
Communication through commerce is a key concern for the artist. Alongside this, Banerjee interrogates colonial attitudes to land ownership and freedom of movement, responding critically to exceptionalism, whether national or individual. Her figurative drawings evoke dreamscapes featuring jazz era and science fiction motifs, as well as exploring the ways in which migration brings about positive social transformation. In these works, the rapacity of our present and future gives way to a fantasy in which freedom, flexibility and resilience track the journey towards emancipation from the negative effects of globalisation. Banerjee’s politics perforate boundaries and associations forged out of race, immigration, and gender, willing into being a humanistic inquiry into individualism. Her use of animal, celestial and elemental metaphors such as alligators, birds, the moon, planets, fish, snakes, clouds and fire ruminate on both the natural world and human nature.
Rina Banerjee (b. 1963, Kolkata, India) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She received a BS in Polymer Engineering and worked as a research chemist before completing her MFA at Yale School of Art in 1995. She has held a previous teaching post in post-colonial criticism as part of the Yale School of Art and currently teaches in Columbia University’s art department. In 2020 she was a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation grant and in 2021 she was in residence at Art Explora, Paris, an international foundation established by Frédéric Jousset. She is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at Syracuse University Art Museum, Syracuse, NY. Upcoming and noteworthy group exhibitions include The Sky’s the Limit, National Museum of Women in the Arts (2023) and The Shape of Power: Stories of Race and in American Sculpture, Smithsonian American Art Museum (2024), both Washington, DC.
Between 2018 and 2021, a major mid-career survey, Make Me a Summary of the World, which presented twenty years of Banerjee’s large-scale installation, sculpture and paintings, travelled from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA to the Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA; Frist Art Museum, Nashville, TN; and Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC.
Other solo museum exhibitions include Kunsthall 3,14, Bergen (2021); Smithsonian, Washington, DC (2013-2014) and Musée Guimet, Paris (2011). Her work gained international attention at the 2000 Whitney Biennial and has since been included in MoMA PS1’s Greater New York survey exhibition (2005, 2015); the Venice Biennale (2013, 2017); the Asian Art Biennial at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung (2015); the Busan Biennial (2016); Prospect 4, New Orleans, LA (2017); and the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kochi (2018). Her work is held in museum collections worldwide, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Foundation Louis Vuitton pour l'Art Contemporain, Paris; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, amongst many others.