Embodied Change: South Asian Art Across Time
Embodied Change: South Asian Art Across Time at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, 2021, installation view Photo: Natali Wiseman

Embodied Change: South Asian Art Across Time

Seattle Asian Art Museum, Seattle, WA - To July 10

by Matthew Kangas

For her Seattle debut as assistant curator for South Asian Art, Natalia Di Pietrantonio has organized a survey of artists from the South Asian diaspora in Great Britain and the US whose works explore the complex meanings of the human body. Female and feminized forms predominate, from the sacred to self-portraits. The exhibition combines video, sculpture, paintings and neon with choice examples of historical art from the museum’s permanent collection. For example, near her work that places the Hindu goddess Devi in outer space, Chitra Ganesh installed five “ancient goddess votives” from the permanent collection, thus affirming the theme of temporal continuity.  

Sixteen artists have lent new work, collaborated with the curator on juxtaposing new and ancient works, or received commissions for sculptures or environmentally immersive objects. First shown on the façade of Tate Britain, Kali (I’m a Mess) (2020) is an exuberant neon work by Chila Kumari Singh Burman that addresses another Hindu goddess, Kali, and also speaks to current political and social issues. 

Pakistani-born artists Naiza Khan and Humaira Abid (who lives in Renton, WA) both confront religious strictures as well as associated violence. Khan made confining metal lingerie, skirts and corsets, while Abid carved an all-wood suitcase containing religious paraphernalia appropriate for a spiritual journey, displayed alongside a gun. 

Embodied Change also debuts contemporary South Asian art acquired through the museum’s new fund, the Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Acquisition for Global Contemporary Art. Says Di Pietrantonio, “I hope that visitors come away with a sense of how these artists are boldly imagining personal, political and social change.”


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