‘Chitra Ganesh: Dreaming in Multiverse’

Intertwining past, future and turbulent present, Ganesh creates vibrant worlds in digital print and animation Feb. 18 to July 25

Chitra Ganesh, “Multiverse Dreaming,” 2021. LightJet print on archival paper, 21 1/8 x 27 3/16″. (Image: Courtesy of the artist; Hales, London and New York; and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco. © Chitra Ganesh.)

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis will present the first solo exhibition in the Midwest by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based artist Chitra Ganesh. In her multidisciplinary practice, Ganesh draws on Buddhist and Hindu iconography, science fiction, queer theory, comics, Surrealism, Bollywood posters and video games, combining them with her own imagery to present speculative visions of society in the past, present and future.

“Chitra Ganesh: Dreaming in Multiverse” reflects the artist’s commitment to making worlds that are tethered to culture and history, yet unbound from the limitations of contemporary reality. At the Kemper Art Museum, Ganesh will exhibit 13 digital prints that together comprise the artist’s “Multiverse Dreaming” suite, as well as a selection of her video animations. The exhibition will be on view Feb. 18 through July 25, 2022.

Chitra Ganesh, “Urgency,” 2020. Archival digital print, 66 1/4 x 45″. (Image: Courtesy of the artist; Hales, London and New York; and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco. © Chitra Ganesh.)

“Multiverse Dreaming,” her fourth comics series, was largely completed during COVID-19 lockdowns. The suite of prints is inspired by Amar Chitra Katha (literally “Immortal Picture Stories), a popular series of comic books originating in the 1960s in India that includes tales of epic myth, folklore and history of the South Asian subcontinent.

Ganesh uses the series as a point of departure, constructing images by digitally combining her own pen and ink drawings with visual fragments appropriated from the comics to present nonlinear narratives that focus on reflection, regeneration and desire in times of uncertainty.

In “Urgency” (2020), the opening print, Ganesh presents a three-headed figure whose symbolic implements — surgical mask, oil lamp, electric megaphone — reflect contemporary anxieties, mythological archetypes and apocalyptic futures.

Ganesh’s interweaving of disparate visual idioms, poetic texts and shape-shifting bodies across these prints invites viewers to consider utopian possibilities, while also tapping into a collective memory for audiences in India and its diaspora that have grown up reading these comics. The project notably centers women, femme bodies and queer relationships, reorienting traditional narratives around experiences and communities that have been marginalized, historically in her source material as well as in the contemporary art world.

With her time-based animations, the artist extends her experimentation with visual narratives, instilling a dynamic sense of dimensionality and depth within the varied graphic languages she employs. Like her prints, these works challenge conventions of gender, sexuality and power by centering complex narratives — often of mythological or epic proportions — around iconic women protagonists and forms.

“Rabbit Hole” (2010), one of her earliest animations, explores the intertwining of creation and destruction through the fragmented body of a femme-presenting figure, while “Before the War” (2021), her newest video, examines themes of love, memory and loss amidst political polarization and the COVID-19 pandemic. The visual imagery, combined with music and lyrics by the singer and songwriter Saul Williams, probes how personal and political conflicts are often intertwined and can be bearers of profound transformation.

“Chitra Ganesh: Dreaming in Multiverse” is organized for the Kemper Art Museum by Meredith Malone, curator. The exhibition is generously supported by the Siteman Family Charitable Fund.

Chitra Ganesh, “Battle With Myself,” 2021. LightJet print on archival paper, 15 x 25 7/8″. (Image: Courtesy of the artist; Hales, London and New York; and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco. © Chitra Ganesh.)

About the artist

Born in Brooklyn in 1975, Ganesh received a bachelor’s degree in art semiotics and comparative literature from Brown University in 1996. She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2001 and received her master of fine arts degree in visual arts from Columbia University in 2002.

Ganesh’s work has been widely exhibited both nationally and internationally, including solo presentations at Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, New York; The Kitchen, New York; Rubin Museum of Art, New York; MoMA PS 1, New York; Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum; and Gothenburg Konsthall, Sweden.  

Her work is widely recognized in South Asia and has been shown at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, Devi Art Foundation and Travancore Palace in New Delhi; the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai; and the Dhaka Art Summit at Shilpakala Academy in Bangladesh. Ganesh is associate professor of art at Hunter College in New York.

Chitra Ganesh, still from “Adventures of the White Beryl,” 2018. Digital animation with sound, 2:10 min. (Image: Courtesy of the artist; Hales, London and New York; and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco. © Chitra Ganesh.)

Visitor information

“Chitra Ganesh: Dreaming in Multiverse” will open at the Kemper Art Museum Feb. 18 and remain on view through July 25, 2022. The “Multiverse Dreaming” suite will be installed in the museum’s Saligman Family Atrium. Ganesh’s animations will be on view in the museum’s Video Gallery.

The Kemper Art Museum is located on Washington University’s Danforth Campus, near the intersection of Skinker and Lindell boulevards. Visitor parking is available in the Washington University’s East End Garage, which can be entered from Forsyth Boulevard or Forest Park Parkway.

Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays through Sundays. The museum is closed Tuesdays. For more information, including current COVID-19 precautions, call 314-935-4523 or visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Follow Ganesh on Instagram.

About the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, part of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, was established in 1881 with the founding of the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts at Washington University. The museum is committed to preserving and developing its art collection and continuing its legacy of collecting significant art of the time; providing excellence in art historical scholarship, education and exhibition; inspiring social and intellectual inquiry into the connections between art and contemporary life; and engaging audiences on campus, in the local community, across the nation and worldwide. The museum is free and open to all. For more information, visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu.

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