Seher Shah, The Black Star Project (detail), 2007
Weaving an intergenerational dialogue through more than 100 artworks by artists from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the diaspora, Pop South Asia: Artistic Explorations in the Popular is one of the first major exhibitions to provide a substantial representation of modern and contemporary art from South Asia inflected through the vibrant prism of popular culture. Spanning works mainly from the mid-twentieth century to the present, the exhibition showcases artists addressing complex issues facing the self and society and the politics of the everyday through irony, play and humour.
Pop South Asia navigates multiple and diverse themes, highlighting their intersectional crossings. The exhibition spotlights artists who intervene in the aesthetics of print, and advertising, cinematic and digital media, comic books alongside those engaging with devotional and traditional practices, crafts and folk culture. It also presents artists addressing modes of local capitalism, from large-scale industries to vernacular 'bazaars', co-opting objects or cast aways of mass production in conjunction with those commenting on identity, politics and borders.
Expanding as well as subverting the conventional canons of Pop Art, understood primarily in the Western context as art that addresses consumer culture and mass media, the exhibition foregrounds multiple layers of artistic practices and ideas embedded within the 'popular' in South Asia, and how they temper and texture the present. Alluding to the fluid spirit and shifting definition of the Pop, the exhibition does not intend to be a complete account, but presents many parallel and intersecting routes coalescing from different vantage points.