In 1962 an accountant named Bhupen Khakhar decided to make a career change at the ripe age of 28. He enrolled in the Faculty of Fine Arts in Barota and quickly became an emerging voice in Indian art. However, his work... [more]
In 1962 an accountant named Bhupen Khakhar decided to make a career change at the ripe age of 28. He enrolled in the Faculty of Fine Arts in Barota and quickly became an emerging voice in Indian art. However, his work didn't truly reach maturity until the death of his mother and an eye-opening trip to London. Despite oppressive Indian mores, these experiences led Khakhar (then in his late 40s) to come out of the closet. And in his work, he began to share his experiences as a homosexual in an intolerant landscape.
Khakhar's later works immediately impress us with a sense of hard-won liberation: something that was once a sorrowful secret is now exposed for everyone to see. His paintings depict awkward sexual moments experienced privately but often set directly against the daily goings-on of a disapproving society. 1982's "Two Men in Banaras" foregrounds naked, erect men embracing against a background of a typical village going about its business. The lovers appear to go undiscovered by their neighbors, but they are poignantly conspicuous to the painting's audience. A later work, "My Dear Friend" (1993), shows two men sharing a moment of intimacy while being watched by a crowd of potentially threatening onlookers. This time the private moment has become truly public. In common Khakhar fashion, the men are caught and exposed in a moment of ecstasy and trust -- a moment of supreme vulnerability.
The narrative element is extremely important in Khakhar's work. It is as though the years of self-imposed silence have given way to a lifetime's worth of storytelling. "You Can't Please All," which depicts a disrobed man standing alone while looking out over his fellow countrymen, suggests the artist's own role in present-day India. Like Khakhar himself, the subject stands fully exposed for all to see; at the same time he serves as a witness who observes and exposes the reality of his society. Khakhar's images are honest ones that hold no hint of anger or reproach. Instead they display moments of vulnerability and tenderness, revealing the gulf between individual and group, expressing the patent beauty and humanity of the outcast. [show less]