ina Banerjee exhibition at PAFA
Rina Banerjee at work on her new exhibition. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Identity, history and bold colors have always been themes in artist Rina Banerjee’s work. She’ll soon showcase all of those things in a new exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

Through the years, Banerjee’s art has been characterized by installations and large-scale sculptures. In “Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World” — which opens on October 27 — the India-born artist uses a “variety of gathered materials ranging from African tribal jewelry to colorful feathers, light bulbs, and Murano glass,” reports the News India Times. The materials used are meant to create a conversation about issues like globalization, feminism and cultural appropriation.

While she was born in Kolkata in 1963, Banerjee spent much of her childhood abroad.

“Growing up abroad [as we called it] was a strange experience in the 1960s; there were so few Indians in the West,” she told Artforum in 2011 of her childhood in London and New York. “My parents saw themselves as international citizens. Maybe they imagined a future that we are just beginning to glimpse.”

Banerjee originally studied engineering, graduating with a degree in Polymer Engineering from Case Western Reserve University in 1993. After obtaining her degree, she “quietly moved toward art.” She would eventually get a Masters in Fine Arts from Yale and devote her career to art thereafter.

The upcoming exhibition in Pennsylvania is notable because it (along with an exhibition next year at the San José Museum of Art) will be the first time Banerjee’s work will showcased in the United States in such an in-depth way.

The artist’s “wider practice challenges current nativist political leanings by proposing a multi-faceted nature of identity; not based exclusively on a person’s culture of origin or gender, but instead on self-identity,” the PAFA notes in a press release on the exhibition.

That concept of “self-identity” has been a major one throughout both Banerjee’s life and career. “Where you live impacts who you are,” she observed to Artforum. “I am a Non-Resident Indian, living in New York. I think it is important to ask what this means.”

“Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World” will open at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts on October 27 and runs through March 31, 2019. The exhibition will also be shown at the San José Museum of Art from May 18 to October 6, 2019.


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