Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 5-7 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard-copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."

ONTOGENY AT THE GUGGENHEIM

January 21, 2015

Tags: Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde

V. S. Gaitonde, Untitled, 1977. Oil on canvas, 70 x 40 inches (177.8 x 101.6 cm). Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai. © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. Photo: Anil Rane.
Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, runs the old recapitulation theory – meaning that the history of the individual recapitulates the history of the genus or species. While no longer favored in discussions of biology, it continues to find applications in other fields ranging from anthropology to music criticism.

It’s remarkably applicable to the life story of Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde (1924-2001), the Indian abstractionist whose serenely lovely mini-retrospective (of 45 paintings and works on paper) is currently on view in one level of the carefully delineated space of the annex at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (through February 14).

Gaitonde’s modestly-scaled abstractions are quite unlike any of the works that I normally recommend, not least because the paint in the best of them is spread almost as thinly as air. But I like to think that my readers are not so narrow-minded that they automatically tune out when confronted by art that doesn't resemble what they already know. (more…)