At Hauser & Wirth, Subodh Gupta Shows What Paint Can Do–and Can’t

THE DAILY PIC: An artist known for spectacle digs into realism's conceptual core.


THE DAILY PIC: This image shows one quarter of a recent piece titled Seven Billion Light Years II by Subodh Gupta, from his show at Hauser & Wirth gallery in New York. (Click on my image to see the whole piece, and to zoom in close on it.)

Gupta’s work is simply a vast photorealist painting of the actual beaten-up frying pan that he’s stuck to its surface, and that I’ve captured in today’s Pic. It hammers home a simple point that can never be emphasized enough: However much a painted canvas may look like the world, it is also absolutely different from it.

It also provides a reliable pleasure that’s rarely available: The pleasure of comparing painting and subject, detail-by-detail and stroke-by-stroke. Realist technique tickles some ancient part of our brain, even once it’s available everywhere around us (as it has been for just about five centuries).

Forget Gupta’s cutesy reference to deep space in the image and its title. (Although I like his flick–possibly accidental–at the linkage between microcosm and macrocosm that mattered so much to medieval philosophers.) The painting has a conceptual edge that we don’t tend to associate with this artist: It’s got ties to Joseph Kosuth’s multiple renderings of a chair (as text, as photo and as seat) and with the realist tricks in Tu’m, the final statement about painting that Duchamp made in 1918. (© Subodh Gupta, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth)

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