Mehlli Gobhai Indian

Not on view

A committed abstractionist, Gobhai did not receive recognition in India during his lifetime. After leaving Mumbai in 1960 to study at the Royal College of Art in London, Gobhai moved to New York. Further studies at the Pratt Institute and the Art Students League of New York provided a foundation in representational art, but by the 1970s the artist gravitated toward abstraction in the form of bright polychrome paintings. Through the 1980s, Gobhai explored the nuances of darkness, often mixing graphite, charcoal, powdered pastel, and aluminum powder into his acrylic pigments. Since the early 1990s, having returned to Mumbai, he began a new phase of work by exploring edges, seams, and hinges: contact zones that create areas of shadow and light. His surfaces are built up multiple times, with materials such as acrylic, charcoal, graphite, zinc, aluminum powder, and pastel added or stripped away by the artist using his fingers, rags, or cotton. Their multi-layered texture suggests metal, the earth’s surface, or burnished leather.

Critic Ranjit Hoskote, discussing the body of work from which The Met’s drawing hails, wrote: "Gobhai’s approach to his art is profoundly material, artisanal, workmanlike... Through these manoeuvres of staining, polishing, paring and burnishing, one layer becomes encrusted with another, sometimes; at other times, a substrate is lifted back into view from later accretions... The gradations of grey, black, sienna, rust, olive and verdigris in his paintings change with the changing light and viewing position. Across these tones, Gobhai incises his ordering pattern of lines, sometimes marking them a stark white, as though chalking a marker of the intransigent human will against the organic inevitabilities of the earth."[1]

[1] Ranjit Hoskote, "Pictoriality and Objecthood," in Mehlli Gobhai: New Works 2011, Mumbai: Chemould Prescott Road, 2011, p. 4.

Untitled, Mehlli Gobhai (Indian, Mumbai 1931–2018 Mumbai), Mixed media on paper

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