Jacob Lewis Gallery is pleased to present Tropical Urban, an exhibition of new sculptures and works on paper by Rina Banerjee. This is the artist’s inaugural exhibition with Jacob Lewis Gallery, on view April 10–June 6, with an opening reception April 9, 6-8pm.
Rina Banerjee’s work investigates the possibilities of cultural identity; its relics, how we identify ourselves, and how that perception changes through the eyes of others. Textiles, shells, antique furnishings, and other vestiges of culture are manipulated and transformed, their meanings complicated by the viewer’s associations. Banerjee gravitates towards collage and assemblage, embracing the clumsiness in the meeting of disparate materials during their initial encounter, and allowing their narrative powers to reconcile in an elegant balance. The artist is not interested in cultural restraints, but instead the permeability of barriers in a globalized world. Culture is fluid, not fixed; something to be explored and manipulated, confounded and realized.
In this exhibition, the artist explores the idea of the urban environment. Banerjee views the ideal city as the “tropical urban,” a bountiful place where people go to transform themselves, to be surrounded by the fertile soil of a myriad of cultures and diverse beauty. The characters in Banerjee’s paintings and sculptures are creatures who take ownership of their identity, metamorphosing into surreal forms, free to do so as a result of the city’s celebration of self-invention. Painted creatures—part bird, part woman—float and molt their feathers to acquire insect or mammal elements. A vine-like snake entangles itself in a steel armature, molting its skin of plastic netting to reveal a new body of delicate lace within. Baroque eclecticism emerges in the ornate detailing of each sculpture, at once both human and animal, allowing a glimpse into our own evolutionary past, showing that the urge to be animals is still imprinted within us. Sculptures and works on paper with stacked compositions and overlapping vignettes inform one another, the paintings providing the viewer with a sense of the mysterious world Banerjee’s sculptural figures might inhabit.
Rina Banerjee was born in Calcutta, India in 1963. She grew up in London, England, and eventually moved to New York, NY. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Polymer Engineering at Case Western University in 1993 and took a job as a polymer research chemist upon graduation. After several years, she left the science profession to receive her Masters in Fine Arts from Yale University in 1995. Banerjee’s work has been exhibited internationally, including but not limited to New York, NY; Paris, France; London, England; Tokyo, Japan; Los Angeles, CA; New Delhi, India; Milan, Italy; Singapore; and notably a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC in 2013. The artist’s works are also included in many private and public collections such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Centre George Pompidou, Paris, France; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA; Queens Museum, Queens, NY; and the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. Rina Banerjee currently lives and works in New York City.