Many of the most exciting works of art being made today look as if they were cobbled together on deserted islands by castaways who have frantically lashed together natural scraps and bits of flotsam to form forlorn totems to their own homelessness. The sense of being outside the fold, beyond the pale and cut adrift from civilization takes shape in such scrappy works.
The stunning sculptures, fluid paintings and whiplash drawings in Rina Banerjee's exhibition at L.A. Louver do something similar, but different. The grunginess of repurposed materials and the grubbiness of dumpster diving are nowhere to be found in Banerjee's oddly refined assemblages. Off balanced elegance also emerges from her mixed media paintings on panel and paper, many of which depict malformed figures who are not only reconciled to the reality of their monstrousness but proud of it.
Banerjee's four sculptures steal the show. Each is made of hundreds if not thousands of small objects she has wired and strung together with the fastidiousness of a dressmaker and the devotion of a miniaturist. Cowry shells, rooster feathers, gourds, acrylic horns, ceramic balls, plastic nets, glass vials and swathes of silk are among the materials Banerjee combines in her hallucinatory sculptures, which appear to be figures, both animal and human, still lifes or landscapes. The best ones shape shift, changing their nature as you move around them.
The newness of the objects Banerjee uses is striking. It distinguishes her work from traditional assemblage, which, for the past 60 or 70 years has romanticized detritus, particularly that which has been cast off by societies infatuated with new-and-improved conveniences.
Instead of junk-picking her stuff, Banerjee appears to buy it online, from specialty sites and off-the-beaten-path outlets. Strange as it may seem, this intensifies the lostness at the heart of her art, amplifying its insistence that we are all shipwrecked—and that global culture is as much about isolation as it is about connectivity.
Her seven paintings and six drawings sample styles from all over the globe. Asian, African, European and American artifacts get uprooted in Banerjee's haunting images, where freedom and loss intermingle so promiscuously it's impossible to tell one from the other.