Why you should care about Nasreen Mohamedi


Why you should care about Nasreen Mohamedi

The late artist's retrospective opens the Met's new wing this week

By Phalguni Desai  March 17th, 2016

This month, The Metropolitan Museum opens the Met Breuer, a new NYC outpost for its ever-expanding collection of modern and contemporary art, with a retrospective on Indian modernist Nasreen Mohamedi’s works. The late artist gets her due in the Met Breuer’s very first exhibit, with the support of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi and the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid.

She reshaped modernism
Mohamedi’s practice encompassed oil painting, collages, ink and graphite drawings and photographs. Importantly, her work brought a new approach to abstraction in the very male mainstream. She broke away from conventional modernist Indian figurative art to dwell on geometry and geography with a minimalistic approach.

She’s a global artist
Born in 1937, in pre-Partition Karachi, Mohamedi lived in Mumbai, Bahrain, London and Paris before settling in Baroda to teach fine art in 1972. Always inspired by travel, Mohamedi went on to visit Turkey and Iran. She photographed and made detailed notebook entries about her travels, some of which will be on display at the Met Breuer.

She’s in a league of her own
More than 150 works by Mohamedi will be on display at the Met Breuer, making it one of the largest exhibitions on an Indian artist in the United States. While attempts have been made to compare her to numerous contemporaries like Zarina Hashmi and Agnes Martin, they fall short in describing the enigma that is Mohamedi and her work, which have only found widespread recognition in the last 15 years.

She was the quiet sort
Mohamedi was rarely heard speaking about her own work — a bulk of it remains unnamed, and untheorised. She did, however, document her process and her internal dialogue with her work in a series of personal diaries and notebooks.

Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible and Nasreen Mohamedi is on from March 18 – June 5 at The Met Breuer, New York. Metmuseum.org

Photographs: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art