Rabin Mondal, Untitled, 1962, Oil on canvas, 83.2 109.2cm
Courtesy of DAG
When it was established in 1993 in New Delhi, there was hardly any infrastructure for art in India, very few galleries and a pool of talented artists with no means to promote or market themselves. In the quarter century since then, DAG has done seminal work in gaining recognition for India’s modern masters whose legacies had been lost to time and apathy in the absence of sufficient viewers, collectors, promoters, curators or scholars.
DAG’s focus has always been research-led. It has documented the works of the finest twentieth century artists, lifting them out of recent oblivion to get them their due appreciation while aligning them with various art movements across the country. Ranging all the way from pre-modern art to modern art practices and tracking the changes in response to constant innovation and experimentation, DAG’s long-term perspective has been at the forefront of most of its activities. This includes its historical curatorial exercises, its publishing and filmmaking programmes, its art appreciation workshops and education initiatives in non commercial and public spaces, by way of talks and curated walks, relationship building with institutions and museums around the world, or creating tactile aids for the specially-abled.
DAG has been recently successful in foraying into institution building with the launch of its museum programme. Currently, it has launched, in association with Archaeological Survey of India, the country’s first public-private museum initiative at the Red Fort. Inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi and called Drishyakala, this art museum sees average footfalls of 3,000-6,000 daily. In Varanasi, another museum in public private partnership with DAG, depicts the city’s visual history, Eternal Banaras. More museum projects in the public space are on the anvil.
D. P. Roy Chowdhury
F. N. Souza
G. R. Santosh
Gogi Saroj Pal
Gopal Ghose Ghose
J. Sultan Ali
K. H. Ara
K. K. Hebbar
M. F. Husain
M. V. Dhurandhar
S. H. Raza
S. K. Bakre
The son of a mechanical draughtsman, Mondal took to drawing and painting at the age of twelve when he injured his knee and was confined to bed. The Bengal famine in 1943 and the Calcutta communal riots of 1946 deeply impacted his psyche, as a result of which he joined the Communist Party and became a Leftist and one-time activist. However, Rabin Mondal’s final refuge has been his art as the ultimate weapon of protest.
Mondal’s figuration derives from a growing abhorrence towards mankind’s moral decay in all spheres of life. The cubo-futuristic angularities of forms within the pictorial space arranged around them evolved into a series of paintings depicting highly distinct human figures that struggle to live a hero’s life in a mocking but tragic world. Mondal’s images have a deeply felt iconic appearance. The series Queen, King, Man represent figures that are static, totemic, tragicomic, ruthlessly shattered and ruined. Having subverted the classical canons of harmony and beauty, Mondal invented a language in paint that could express his anguish and rage towards the decadence and frequent inhumanity he saw. Even the expressionistic use of splattered colours, the bold and enormous application of black, is representative of this symptom.
Mondal’s art is typically known for its inspiration from primitive and tribal art and for its potent simplifications and raw energy. Beginning his career as an art teacher, with a stint as an art director in films, Mondal was a founder member of Calcutta Painters in 1964, and from 1979-83, a general council member of the Lalit Kala Akademi.