March 18–June 5, 2016
Exhibition Location: The Met Breuer, 2nd floor, Madison Avenue and 75th Street
Press Preview: Tuesday, March 1, 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Celebrating one of the most important artists to emerge in post-Independence India, and marking the first museum retrospective of the artist’s work in the United States, Nasreen Mohamedi examines the career of an artist whose singular and sustained engagement with abstraction adds a rich layer to the history of South Asian art and to modernism on an international level. The retrospective spans the entire career of Mohamedi (1937–1990)—from her early works in the 1960s through her late works on paper in the 1980s—exploring the conceptual complexity and visual subtlety that made her work unique for its time, and demonstrating why she is considered one of the most significant artists of her generation. Together with the thematic exhibition Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible, Nasreen Mohamedi inaugurates The Met Breuer, which expands upon The Met’s modern and contemporary art program.
The exhibition is made possible by Nita and Mukesh Ambani and the Reliance Foundation.
The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía with the collaboration of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.
“We are proud to present Nasreen Mohamedi in our first wave of exhibitions at The Met Breuer,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Met. “Mohamedi’s work calls on us to expand our understanding of graphic minimalism in a transnational context. It is a project that speaks to our interest in introducing a broad range of audiences to the innovative work created by artists across borders.”
Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, said: “One of our goals with The Met Breuer is to present thoughtful exhibitions that posit a broader meaning of modernism across vast geographies of art. The poignant story of Mohamedi, a relatively little-known but significant artist, reveals a highly individual artistic quest, drawing on historic sources from across the world, alongside her evocative photography as an unexpected form of visual note-taking.”
More than 130 of Mohamedi’s paintings, drawings, and photographs, as well as rarely seen diaries, are brought together from collections around the world in order to trace the evolution of her aesthetic approach and the shifts in her artistic practice. Working in her preferred medium of pencil and ink on paper, she drew delicate and deliberate lines, experimenting with intricate grid-like forms in horizontal bands, or hard-edged lines of varying gradations that lift off the page at acute angles.
This sweeping presentation highlights Mohamedi’s fascination with the possibilities of line to animate one’s perception of light and shade, an aesthetic that is also seen in the carefully focused and closely cropped photographs she took throughout her life. Having traveled extensively from Tokyo to New York, Mohamedi had a cosmopolitan outlook that drew her equally to the 16th-century Mughal buildings of Fatehpur Sikri and the 20th-century modernist architecture of Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh. Her exposure to Western philosophy and literature as well as Sufi poetry also contributed to the multifaceted perspective she developed throughout her career and can be seen in her diaries, which include quotes by writers as diverse as Rainer Maria Rilke and Albert Camus, as well as Rumi, Ghalib, and Mohammad Iqbal.
About the Artist
Nasreen Mohamedi was born in 1937 in Karachi (British India, now Pakistan). Her family moved to Bombay (now known as Mumbai) in 1944, where she spent the rest of her childhood. She studied at Central Saint Martin’s in London (1954–57), and subsequently spent time in Bahrain, where her father had business interests. She returned to Bombay in 1958 and had her first solo exhibition at the Bhulabhai Memorial Institute there in 1961. She was awarded a French Government Scholarship to study at an atelier in Paris (1961–63). In the 1960s she traveled extensively through India, and also to Iran and Turkey. In 1972 she moved to Baroda to teach at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University in Baroda, one of the leading art schools in India. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, she had several exhibitions and participated in group shows including the Third Triennale in New Delhi (1975) and Contemporary Indian Art as part of the Festival of India in Britain (1982). She passed away in Kihim, near Bombay (now Mumbai), in 1990.
She has had solo exhibitions at venues such as the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi (2013), Tate Liverpool (2014), and the Drawing Center, New York (2005). Her work has been included in group exhibitions such as Out of India: Contemporary Art of the South Asian Diaspora (Queens Museum, New York, 1997), Drawing Space: Contemporary Indian Drawing (Institute of International Visual Arts, London, 2000), and Documenta XII (Kassel, 2007).
Exhibition Credits and Catalogue
Nasreen Mohamedi is organized by Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met; Roobina Karode, Director of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi; and Manuel J. Borja-Villel, Director of the Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid.
The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication, published by the Museo Reina Sofía, with new research on her work, featuring essays by Deepak Ananth, Andrea Giunta, Geeta Kapur, and Roobina Karode.
The exhibition Nasreen Mohamedi is also a chosen focus of The Met’s resident artist, the eminent jazz musician and composer Vijay Iyer. In homage to Mohamedi’s devotion to Indian classical music and her improvisatory imagery that at times evokes an abstracted rhythmic notation, Iyer will present the world premiere of a new composition in honor of Mohamedi. A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke premieres on Wednesday, March 30, at 7 pm, followed by a performance on Thursday, March 31, at 7 pm. Tickets start at $40.
A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke is made possible through the Saroj Jhaveri Foundation, sponsored by the R.&S. Nanavati Charitable Trust No.2. The Vijay Iyer Artist Residency is made possible by Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky, with additional support from the Chester Dale Fund.
Related programs include a lecture about the work of Nasreen Mohamedi on Thursday, April 29 by Brinda Kumar, Research Assistant, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Met, and a conversation that will consider Mohamedi’s creative practice and the role of intentional choice manifested in her work on Friday, June 3, with Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Met, Brinda Kumar, and others. Starting April 21, exhibition tours will be held every Thursday and Sunday at 12:30 pm and Friday at 6:30 pm, and family tours for families with children ages 3-11 will be held on Saturday April 9 and May 14. For more information about these programs and others related to the exhibition, please visit metmuseum.org/events.
The exhibition is featured on the Museum’s website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using #NasreenMohamedi and #MetBreuer.
About The Met Breuer
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s modern and contemporary art program is expanding to include a new series of exhibitions, performances, artist commissions, residencies, and educational initiatives in the building designed by Marcel Breuer on Madison Avenue and 75th Street. Open to the public beginning March 18, 2016, The Met Breuer provides additional space to explore the art of the 20th and 21st centuries through the global breadth and historical reach of The Met’s unparalleled collection.
Other programs featured as part of The Met Breuer’s inaugural season include a major thematic survey, Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible (March 18—September 4, 2016), which looks at unfinished works of art from the Renaissance to the present day; the largest exhibition to date dedicated to Indian modernist Nasreen Mohamedi (March 18—June 4, 2016); and a month-long performance installation, by Artist in Residence Vijay Iyer (March 18-30, 2016). Upcoming exhibitions include a presentation of Diane Arbus’s rarely seen early photographic works (July 12–November 27, 2016) and the first museum retrospective dedicated to Kerry James Marshall (October 25, 2016–January 29, 2017).
About The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met presents over 5,000 years of art from around the world for everyone to experience and enjoy. The Museum lives in three iconic sites in New York City – The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters. Millions of people also take part in The Met experience online.
Since it was founded in 1870, The Met has always aspired to be more than a treasury of rare and beautiful objects. Every day, art comes alive in the Museum’s galleries and through its exhibitions and events, revealing both new ideas and unexpected connections across time and across cultures.
Special Hours for The Met Breuer Inaugural Weekend, March 18–20
Friday, March 18, 10 am–10 pm
Saturday, March 19, 10 am–10 pm
Sunday, March 20, 10 am–5:30 pm
Regular Hours for The Met Breuer (as of March 21)
Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 am–5:30 pm
Thursday and Friday, 10 am–9 pm
Saturday and Sunday, 10 am–5:30 pm
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March 1, 2016
Image: Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, ca. 1975, Ink and graphite on paper, Sikander and Hydari Collection