Invisible Cities

When 24 Jun 2010 - 17 Jul 2010
Where Aicon Gallery
35 Great Jones Street
New York, NY 10012
United States
Enquiry 212-614-3068

June 24 – July 27 2010

Press Release:

Featuring Devang Anglay, Jayashree Chakravarty, Dilip Chobisa, Pooja Iranna, Damon Kowarsky, M. Pravat, Gigi Scaria, Sanjay Sundaran and Mahreen Zuberi.

Opening Reception: Thursday 24 June, 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Aicon Gallery New York is delighted to present INVISIBLE CITIES, a group exhibition featuring selected work from a host of international artists. This exhibition takes its inspirational cue from legendary writer Italo Calvino’s novella “Invisible Cities”, substituting India for Calvino’s Venice. The Invisible Cities exhibition explores the conceptual aspect of motherland, from within and without.

Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” imagines a number of fictional encounters between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, at the Mongol ruler’s court. Polo is expected to offer field reports on the cities within Khan’s vast empire as the latter attempts to work out why his empire is crumbling. Polo, who cannot speak the court’s language, only expresses himself by “drawing objects from his baggage – drums, salt fish, necklaces or warthogs’ teeth – pointing to them with gestures…”. Gradually he replaces these with words in order to describe the cities. The stories fill the book describing cities in various categories such as ‘Hidden Cities’, ‘Continuous Cities’, ‘Cities and the Sky’, ‘Cities and Names’. We hear of Maurilia, Esmerelda, Berenice, Laudomia; of unjust cities, of cities being continually constructed, of cities suspended in the heavens. Ultimately Khan, like the reader, grows suspicious of the factuality of these tales – and in the end Khan realizes that Polo is continuously returning to one city, the one from he himself hails: Venice. Polo cannot escape conceiving of any city without perpetually returning to his own.

Rather than population statistics, historical events and important buildings, Calvino suggests that origins, memory, projection, fiction and desire all play constitutive roles in the ways in which one imagines a city. “The city,” describes exhibiting artist Damon Kowarsky, “(is) something built out of the collective works and dreams of all (its) inhabitants.” Throughout the book, words both fail Polo, and also fail to satisfy Khan. Calvino suggests that words block the unmediated perception of the world – the more Polo says, the more obtuse he becomes.

This exhibition starts off by asking: how do artists think about India – a nation often described as being beyond simple definition, always open to the Orientalist gaze of travelers such as Marco Polo? Can one only see cities through one’s own cultural origins? Can one only describe cities partially or through metaphor? How do artists subvert the closure of travel guides’ inert descriptions? How might the city, and in particular the city outside the West, be imagined and described without falling into the traps of convention? Might drawings or objects (“drums, salt fish, necklaces…”) be a better starting point?

INVISIBLE CITIES explores these notions through a variety of media, created by artists of both South Asian and European extraction, featuring video installation by Gigi Scaria; works on canvas by Jayashree Chakravarty and Sanjay Sundram; etchings by Damon Kowarsky; mixed media work by Devang Anglay, M. Pravat and Dilip Chobisa; sculpture by Pooja Iranna; and digital works on paper by Mahreen Zuberi.

For more information please click here.