Avi Gupta’s Fabrics Keep Their Human Touch at the Corcoran
It’s tempting to turn Avi Gupta’s photographic series “There Is Here” into a parlor game, but it’s best to resist.
Gupta—a D.C.-based photographer whose Corcoran College of Art and Design exhibit is a return to the school where he was a member of the first-ever photojournalism BFA class—photographed Bengali homes in the D.C. area and in Kolkata, India. He focuses on the “cultural interpenetration” of East and West—that is, the degree to which Indian details creep into America and vice versa.
So it’s natural to scrutinize the writing on the newspapers, the designs of the tchotchkes and the finer points of consumer-product package design and try to figure out whether the particular image you’re looking at is from a home in America or India.
The answer is that it’s hard to tell (evidence that Gupta is on to something with this “interpenetration” thing) but that it’s also a lot less interesting than it is to let the visuals wash over you, cultural provenance notwithstanding.
As he was in his impressive 2012 D.C. show at Civilian Art Projects, Gupta remains mesmerized by fabrics that have been touched and left, expressing the tangible imprint of human absence.
In the new exhibit, Gupta photographs a bedspread that displays the subtle indentations of someone who has recently stood up and left. He also notices, and documents, the casual folds of a pair of jeans tossed onto a bed (bottom) and a wadded-up cloth napkin after a meal is complete. One deliciously ironic image (above) pairs an old-fashioned poster explaining manners for the “ideal boy” with a duvet haphazardly folded tossed over the back of a chair.
Smartly, Gupta turns to video for his pièce de résistance: In his loop, Gupta offers an unhurried succession of quiet scenes that exhibit gentle motions: hung fabrics swaying in the breeze, newspapers rustling, the reflection of trees in a glass-topped table. Why settle for still photographs of fleeting motions when you can watch them in action?
Through June 29 at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, Thu-Sun 10-5, Wed 10-9.
All photos by Avi Gupta, Untitled from series "There Is Here," 2011, archival pigment print, variable dimensions. Image courtesy of the artist and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.