Manish Nai, Form and Void

Manish Nai, Form and Void
01.16.2021 — 02.28.2021

In collaboration with Richard Taittinger Gallery, Kavi Gupta is pleased to present Form and Void, a solo exhibition of works by the acclaimed Mumbai artist Manish Nai. Featuring examples from several diverse facets of Nai’s trans-disciplinary practice, this exhibition seeks to explore the formal and conceptual balance between absence and presence in Nai’s unique aesthetic position.

Nai’s minimalist sensibilities find balance between form and void, gravity and levity, the highly personal and the truly universal. His substances are distinctly Indian, both past and present, but the forms they take have the abstract logic of geometry. Jute and indigo relate back to the history of India’s occupation by the British empire, cash crops cultivated at the expense of farmers who desperately needed to be producing food to combat famine. The clothes speak to cultural moments, a grandmother’s patterned shawl so reminiscent of one generation in India, a child’s t-shirt so clearly speaking to another, bundled together like laundry of multiple generations living together under a common roof. Stacks of books layered like sedimentary rock-forming a timeline of cultural production. Mosquito nets ubiquitous throughout the tropics, found in homes around the world, both for safety and for comfort. Even the act of compression, used in his making, relates to the notion of social, historical, and economic pressures. Despite all these distinct cultural narratives embedded in the work, there is an aspirational, transcendent universality to the work’s disciplined minimalism.

Perfect geometry inspires the boundaries of each work’s formation. Point, line, plane, and form interplay their abstract logic with the limitless potential of the organic materials that form them. The artist’s gestures’ totalities extend beyond the objects to include specific absences around them, negative space implicitly tethered to the positive object. A jute ring highlights an empty wall, the total volume described by the piece consisting more of empty space than of the jute itself. Leaning pillars of compressed fabric cast shadows on the gap they create, delicately balanced as an interstitial between floor and wall. Mosquito nets catch pale stains of paint that mostly passes through them, visually elusive and physically transient. Every object is riddled with gaps and fissures, and the nature of their installation in space always necessitates some negotiation with the emptiness around it. This emptiness is not just a coincidence, nor a consequence of scale, but an apparatus inborn to the work itself, absence loaded with possibility, void where form can come to have purpose. Composer Claude Debussy famously observed that music is not just the notes, but the silence between them; Nai’s work serves as reminder that sculpture too is not just its own substance, but the shadow it casts, and the space it takes ownership of outside its physical boundaries.

Manish Nai was born in 1980 in Gujarat. He has held solo exhibitions at Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke in Mumbai, Galerie Karsten Greve in Paris, St. Moritz and Cologne, and Galerie Gebr. Lehmann in Berlin. In 2017, the Fondation Fernet Branca presented a comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s paintings, murals, sculptures and photographs in St. Louis, France. The exhibition traveled to the Het Noordbrabants Museum in The Netherlands in 2018.

Nai has participated in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2014) and the Shanghai Biennale (2012). He has recently completed a 60’ long sculpture as a permanent installation in Mumbai’s Bandra-Kurla Complex. His works have recently shown at The Sculpture Park at Madhavendra Palace, Rajasthan, India (2017-18), Kasturbhai Lalbhai Museum in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India (2019), and at the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago as part of their permanent collection. Nai’s work is held in numerous private and public collections throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. The artist lives and works in Mumbai.