Make Me a Summary of the World is the first major survey of Rina Banerjee’s work in the US, which includes large-scale installations, sculptures, and paintings produced over two decades
Altogether, the 33 works in the exhibition show Banerjee’s ongoing desire to summarise the complexity, beauty, and sense of disequilibrium that can arise in a world undergoing constant fragmentation and renewal.
Born in Kolkata, India, in 1963, Banerjee now works in the US. She is renowned for works about the splintering of identity, tradition, and culture often prevalent in diasporic communities. In a single assemblage, one can find materials sourced from around the world, including African tribal jewellery, Murano glass, and South Asian antiques. ‘While the works can be enjoyed as vividly coloured and sensuously layered sculptures, they also address themes of multiple identities, feminism, the impact of colonialism, cultural appropriation, and globalisation,’ said Frist Art Museum Chief Curator Mark Scala.
Banerjee’s works often reflect her South Asian ancestry, but are not limited by biography, ethnicity, race, or class. ‘You see an elasticity of boundaries in her hybrid characters, which contain associations with the feminine but avoid socially constructed expectations of gender,’ continued Scala. ‘Banerjee seeks to transcend labels and reject fixed definitions and by doing so frames identity as an ongoing process of negotiation and personal choice’.
Humanity’s interactions with the natural environment are another major theme in Banerjee’s work. Juxtaposing organic objects such as oyster and cowrie shells with synthetic products, she shows this relationship to be both interdependent and destructive.
The exhibition is organised thematically and begins with In breathless confinement, an updated version of Infectious Migrations, a work included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial that links metaphors of disease with immigration. Also on view will be a selection of sculptures that were featured in the 2017 Venice Biennale.
The Long Titles of Banerjee’s Works
The titles of Banerjee’s works, often more than 50 words long and filled with idiosyncratic spelling and free association, represent her rebellion against the worldwide dominance of the English language. These titles, Banerjee says, are ‘my attempt to massage [the English language] to speak for a vast number of people who use it sparingly, awkwardly, creatively under the pressures of globalisation, colonisation, and the commercialisation of English culture’.
Make Me a Summary of the World, from 9 October to 10 January 2021, Frist Art Museum, Nashville, www.fristartmuseum.org
On 9 October there is Artist’s Perspective: Conversation with Rina Banerjee and Mark Scala, at noon. Free, but registration is required to watch. Rina Banerjee joins Chief Curator Mark Scala in conversation about the exhibition. Learn more about Banerjee’s artistic practice and how exhibiting at the Frist Art Museum, which occupies Nashville’s former main post office, symbolises the ideal of egalitarian communication that is at the core of her work. The programme is presented on Zoom.