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BHUPEN KHAKHAR (1934-2003)
Khakhar widely expanded the area of Indian life visible in painting, but a unique and consistent tone unites his body of work [...] Bhupen's paintings balance satirical distance and loving intimacy with his subjects. (K. Zitzewitz, Midnight to the Boom, Painting in India After Independence, New York, 2013, p. 154)
BHUPEN KHAKHAR (1934-2003)

At New Jersey

Details
BHUPEN KHAKHAR (1934-2003)
At New Jersey
signed in Gujarati (center right); further inscribed, titled and dated 'At New Jersy [sic.] 1986 / Bhupen Khakhar' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
24 x 23 7/8 in. (61 x 60.6 cm.)
Painted in 1986
Provenance
Gallery Espace, New Delhi
Acquired from the above

Lot Essay

In the early 1980s, Bhupen Khakhar's highly narrative paintings increasingly became autobiographical in their subject matter. Paintings from this period prominently feature larger than life images of himself and his partner, and are often intimate and confessional. Khakhar speaks for a world largely relegated to the shadows in India. Fellow artist and Khakhar's biographer Timothy Hyman notes, "The self is always juxtaposed with the world; the self interrogates, and is interrogated, by the world." (T. Hyman, Bhupen Khakhar, Ahmedabad, 1998, p. 68)

In this painting, the promise of darkness offers members of marginalized communities the freedom to emerge uninhibited. Behind the self-referential figure of a single man wearing a bright blue shirt, several ostensibly clandestine encounters take place in shadowy doorways and beside parked vehicles. Through the medium of paint, Khakhar liberates these figures from judgment, social taboos, and conventions. According to the critic Geeta Kapur, "This is Khakhar's private triumph, rescuing the friend from the oblivion of his undistinguished birth and from the kind of morality where he may be taboo." (Six Indian Painters, exhibition catalogue, London, 1982, p. 38)

"It is this quality of humanity and vulnerability, an understanding of, an empathy with an alternate reality that makes Khakhar's work so distinct from that of Hockney to whom he is frequently compared. His concern was with men alone, Khakhar's concern seems to be as much the men as the metaphysics of their condition. 'Hockney is concerned with physical beauty. I am much more concerned with other aspects like warmth, pity, vulnerability, touch [...]'". (S. Mehra, 'An Accountant of Alternate Reality', Outlook India, 13 December, 1995)
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