The Fowler Museum at UCLA presents Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World, the artist’s first mid-career retrospective that brings together her sprawling installations, exquisitely crafted sculptures, and ethereal paintings. The exhibition offers an opportunity to experience almost 20 years of Banerjee’s work, including a re-creation of her installations from the 2000 Whitney Biennial and 2017 Prospect New Orleans, as well as a selection of sculptures featured in the 2017 Venice Biennale, Viva Arte Viva.
Banerjee is a voracious gatherer of things. In a single sculpture, one can find African jewelry, a Chinese feather fan, Italian Murano glass, Japanese and Korean fabrics, and South Asian antiques, all joined together in conversation and conflict. Through her assemblages, she makes visible the transnational movement of people, objects, and ideas, an approach and aesthetic greatly influenced by her own global trajectory. Banerjee was born in India, immigrated to London as a young child, and then, at age 7, moved with her family to the United States, which has been her home ever since. Since 2000, she has lived and worked in New York. Today, Banerjee is considered one of the most important artists of North America’s post-colonial Indian diaspora.
“Although Banerjee has exhibited extensively in Europe and South Asia, this critically acclaimed retrospective, which premiered at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2018, gives her original, vibrant, and provocative multi-media oeuvre the spotlight it deserves in the U.S.,” said Marla C. Berns, Shirley & Ralph Shapiro Director of the Fowler.
“Banerjee’s art resonates with the Fowler’s mission, rejecting the idea that identity is based on one culture or gender. Instead, she embraces a multiplicity of experiences and a constant dance of negotiation and adaptation. This is reflected in her riotous use of color and discordant materials, which make her work beautiful and unsettling at the same time,” Fowler said.
Rather than progressing chronologically, the exhibition is modeled on Banerjee’s own non-linear practice. Within the Fowler’s exhibition space, large installations serve as focal points for exploring overlapping themes that coincide with important issues of our time: colonialism and globalism; immigration and identity; gender and sexuality; climate change and the natural world. Several of Banerjee’s mixed media sculptures are situated in other museum spaces, where they instigate dialogues with objects in the Fowler’s collection.
In Make Me a Summary of the World, Banerjee acts as our guide to a new adventure, revealing her version of the world while asking that as travelers, we bring our own associations and experiences to the journey. At a time of increasingly factious politics and instability, Banerjee’s reflections on the splintered experience of immigration and the tangled inequities of our globally connected world feel ever more vital. At the same time, the artist’s long and poetic titles with idiosyncratic spellings resist the worldwide domination of the English language.
“For 20 years, Rina has been using her work to disrupt conventional notions of identity, delving into the complex territory of cultural fragmentation and self-identification, which makes her an important voice today,” said exhibition cocurators, Jodi Throckmorton, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Lauren Schell Dickens, Curator at the San José Museum of Art. “We’re particularly excited to see her retrospective travel to the Fowler Museum at UCLA, located within a region that is home to so many diasporic groups.”
Exhibition Catalog and Travel Venues
Make Me a Summary of the World is accompanied by extensive programming and a full-color, 160-page catalog co-published by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the San José Museum of Art, California, the two organizing venues.
After the exhibition closes at the Fowler, it will travel to the Frist Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Nasher Museum at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina.
Born in Kolkata, India in 1963, Banerjee was raised in the United Kingdom and the United States. She received her bachelor’s degree in polymer engineering from Case Western Reserve University in 1993 and, upon graduation, took a job as a polymer research chemist. After several years, she left the profession to pursue her master of fine arts from Yale University. She currently lives and works in New York City.
Banerjee has exhibited in galleries worldwide, with notable solo exhibitions at the Freer|Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. and the Musée Guimet, Paris. Her important group exhibitions have included the Venice Biennale (2017); Prospect.4, New Orleans (2017); Busan Biennale, South Korea (2016); Asian Art Biennale, Taiwan (2015); Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Australia (2012); and the Whitney Biennial (2000). Her works are also included in more than 30 private and public collections, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art; Brooklyn Museum; Hammer Museum; San Francisco Museum of ModernArt; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi; Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi; and Centre Pompidou