Artist Spotlight: Rina Banerjee


Photo: courtesy of the artist via Hoctok 

We are excited to share news that 2 works by Rina Banerjee that have been in our collection since 2012 have been selected to participate in a mid-career retrospective that will travel to 5 Museums across the US between 18-2020.

Starting with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art where installation is currently in progress (October 27, 2018 - March 31, 2019) and then the San José Museum of Art, California (SJMA) (May 18 - October 6, 2019) who co-organized the exhibition, it will later travel to the Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles (December 8, 2019 - May 31, 2020) and finally (for now) to the First Art Museum in Nashville, Tennessee (July 24 - October 25, 2020).

Rina Banerjee (b. 1963) is a New York-based Indian artist best known for her distinctive large-scale sculptures and installations composed of colorful feathers, shells, light bulbs, Murano glass, umbrellas, taxidermy, and pigments. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Polymer Engineering from Case Western University but after a few years abandoned the sciences to pursue her art. She completed the MFA degree program at Yale University School of Art in the area of Painting in 1995, where she won prestigious awards for Drawing and Painting and was the recipient of the Skowhegan - Yale Painting scholarship and Norfolk-Yale summer program drawing award.

Rina Banerjee, Winter's Flower, 2010

Banerjee’s life experience growing up in a community of mixed culture and race provides context to her work. Her installations provide global perspectives about the trajectories of race, migration, and mobility. She juxtaposes a multitude of unrelated objects which in the finished work live harmoniously together - Amber vials nestled in with feathers and umbrellas, antique furnishings, icons from different cultures, and trails of fabric for example - mementos of low culture and high culture - are brought together with finesse to create surreal, colorfully ravishing sculptures that eventually seem entirely organic. The objects collapse multiple cultures into one recalling mythologies and fairy tales.

Jodi Throckmorton, Curator of Contemporary Art at PAFA, remarked: “Make Me a Summary of the World” marks a defining moment for Rina. As the artist’s first retrospective, it traces her work over twenty years, culminating in sculptures made for the 57th Venice Biennale and 2017 Prospect Triennial in New Orleans—important exhibitions that reflect one of the most exciting periods of recognition in Rina’s career.”

In a 2011 piece for Artforum, Banerjee wrote:

“I dream of this willingness to close the gaps between cultures, communities, and places. I think of identity as inherently foreign; of heritage as something that leaks away from the concept of home––as happens when one first migrates.”

Rina Banerjee, With Breath Taking Consumption Her Commerce Ate While She was Being Eaten, 2008

Banerjee’s titles are often as long and complex as the works themselves. They are pan-cultural references reflecting her experiences living in melting-pot cities such as Kolkata and London. In the artwork on loan from the Tiroche DeLeon Collection With Breath Taking Consumption Her Commerce Ate While She was Being Eaten, Banerjee examines Diasporas and journeys as she combines Eastern and Western tradition, reinventing space and identity. We hope you get to see the exhibition and wish to congratulate the artist on this important moment in her career.