Nasreen Mohamedi

Untitled | Mumbai | ink on paper | 51.4 x 51.4 cm.

“If people, especially young artists, knew about Mohamedi, they would love her the way they do Eva Hesse.”

Holland Cotter, in The New York Times

Decades after her untimely death in 1990, Nasreen Mohamedi’s high-modernist legacy continues to grow internationally. Since the turn of the millennium, her spare, subtle work—particularly her line drawings—have been the subject of several major solo retrospectives, including “The Grid, Unplugged” at Talwar Gallery in New York, “Lines Among Lines” at New York’s Drawing Center, and an eponymously-titled show at the Milton Keynes Gallery, in the UK. Her work has also figured in numerous high-profile group shows at venues like the New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis, and in the Fifth Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, in Brisbane, Australia.

Mohamedi was an iconoclast of modern Indian art. The clean, minimalist lines that would so define her work first emerged in her oil paintings, photographs and early drawings during a time when many of her contemporaries—from Bhupen Khakhar to Arpita Singh—were, as the critic Geeta Kapur puts it, “committed to augmenting [Indian art’s] iconographic resources.” Icons didn’t interest Mohamedi: She was compelled by the poetics of pure abstraction, by clean, authorless geometries as representations of energy, of selfhood (or its absence), and of one’s phenomenological experiences with nature. As Kapur adds, “Nasreen’s intention apropos Indian art, if she can be said to have one, is to core the palpitating heart of the matter. Her target is the overweening romanticism of Indian art.” 

Mohamedi was born in Karachi before the state of Pakistan was carved out of British colonial India. From a young age, her life was unequivocally cosmopolitan. In the 1950s, she attended St. Martins School of Art, in London, before returning to India, where she joined the Bhulabhai Memorial Institute in Mumbai. There,  she worked with artists like M.F. Husain, Tyeb Mehta and V.S. Gaitonde, who became her longtime artistic mentor. In 1961, she returned to Europe, this time to Paris, where she studied for several years on a French government scholarship.

She was awarded the National Award in Drawing by the Lalit Kala Akademi (National Academy of Art) in New Delhi, in 1972. That same year she began serving on the arts faculty at Maharaja Sayajirao University, in Baroda, India, where she taught until 1988. She died young as the result of Parkinson’s disease two years later; she was 53.  

In 2013, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, organized a major retrospective exhibition for the artist. The Museum, in collaboration with the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofa, Madrid and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, have now organized the exhibition Nasreen Mohamedi: Waiting is a Part of Intense Living. On view at the Reina Sofia through January, 2016, this exhibition will travel to the Metropolitan Museum (March-June, 2016) to be one of the inaugural shows for it's new building.       

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Works by Nasreen Mohamedi

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