Visitors to Kanishka Raja's "I Have Seen the Enemy and It Is Eye" were welcomed into the exhibition by Opening Ceremony, 2009, a giant, flattened chandelier applied in gold leaf against a stark black wall. The work was an appropriately dramatic entrance for the professional debut in India of the Calcutta-raised, New York-based painter, who has already held solo exhibitions at institutions such as the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. Raja left Calcutta to study in the US and settled in New York following a stint in Boston. In spite of a migratory pattern common in the Indian- and South Asian-American art worlds, Raja rejects the rubric and expected identity markers of "diaspora art." Focusing on airports, aircraft, and other thresholds, Raja's paintings evoke experiences that are transient and transnational.
English Heritage has left clues in the Quarry Garden en-route to the castle to build visitor anticipation and bring the sculpture to life for all ages.
A better example of Raja's achievement in developing a cohesive and subtle exhibition is in the dramatic installation of Nine/Ten, 2007, a patterned, composite Escher-like pencil drawing of buildings attacked and destroyed worldwide between March 1993 and September 10, 2001. While the work might not otherwise attract attention, it is enhanced by being visible through the doorway of an adjacent room, which uses the drawing replicated many times over as its wallpaper. With his unusual perspectives on exhibition design and painting alike, Raja brought a substantial new perspective to the Mumbai scene, initiating a critical intervention into those identity categories that his work so constructively ignores.
Author: Beth Citron