Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence is the first international project to explore the resonance of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s (1867-1948) ethics of non-violence, or “satyagraha,” in the visual arts. This exhibition presents approximately 130 works spanning several centuries and includes paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, sculptures, rare books, and films by artists from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe.

A renowned photograph of Gandhi’s last possessions, a carefully constructed “still-life” of the few objects he owned at the time of his death (two dinner bowls, wooden fork and spoon, porcelain monkeys, diary, watch, prayer book, spittoon, letter openers, and two pairs of sandals), is the catalyst for the exhibition. The striking simplicity of this photograph, whose author remains unidentified, conveys the deep significance of these items, which serve as incarnations of Gandhi’s ascetic lifestyle and his conviction that the practice of satyagraha must begin “with the individual, at home,” as he once explained.

Among the diverse artworks and artifacts on display will be iconic photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson from the tumultuous time of India’s independence and partition in 1947, along with another group taken just before and immediately after Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. Portraits and documents of Gandhi’s most important predecessors and contemporaries (Ruskin, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Sojourner Truth), as well as his most eminent followers and leaders of significant movements of social and political reform in the last decades are included. The exhibition will also present major works illustrating the complex artistic visualizations of non-violence throughout world religions including iconography based on themes of asceticism, compassion, abolition of slavery, and racial equality. Finally, artworks by modern and contemporary artists that resonate with Gandhi’s vision and contemplate in a critical way the unfinished conflicts of past and present will appear throughout the exhibition.

Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence begins with a gallery dedicated
to photographs by Margaret Bourke-White and Henri Cartier-Bresson showing Gandhi toward
the end of his life and the events surrounding his funeral. Posters and magazine photographs
that testify to the reverence he was accorded after his assassination lead the way toward
objects that show how other revered public figures, notably Abraham Lincoln, have been
depicted after death. Having opened this historical perspective, the exhibition presents
nineteenth-century photographs and documents of figures associated with spiritually inspired
movements for social change: Henry David Thoreau, Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, Florence
Nightingale, Henry Dunant (the founder of the Red Cross), and two authors who were especially
influential on Gandhi, John Ruskin and Leo Tolstoy. Also included in this initial gallery is a
selection of Indian carpets (which evoke Gandhi’s emphasis on handcraft) and the sculpture
Prayer Wheel (1954) by Jean Tinguely.

The opening events at the Menil Collection will coincide with the 145th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, October 2, 2014, and the exhibition will remain on view until February 1, 2015, before traveling to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva. In Houston the presentation will activate a city-wide initiative at various sites within the Menil campus and many cultural organizations in the city.

Curated by Menil Director, Josef Helfenstein, in consultation with Indian artist Amar Kanwar, Experiments with Truth will be accompanied by a publication intended to introduce the exhibition’s significant figures, ideas, historical events and trends to a non-specialist audience.

For more information: www.menil.org

Menil Collection 1533 Sul Ross St, Houston, TX 77006

Cartier-Bresson portrays Gandhi

When
October 2, 2014 - February 1, 2015
Where
Menil Collection
1533 Sul Ross St, Houston, TX 77006

Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence is the first international project to explore the resonance of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s (1867-1948) ethics of non-violence, or “satyagraha,” in the visual arts. This exhibition presents approximately 130 works spanning several centuries and includes paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, sculptures, rare books, and films by artists from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe.

A renowned photograph of Gandhi’s last possessions, a carefully constructed “still-life” of the few objects he owned at the time of his death (two dinner bowls, wooden fork and spoon, porcelain monkeys, diary, watch, prayer book, spittoon, letter openers, and two pairs of sandals), is the catalyst for the exhibition. The striking simplicity of this photograph, whose author remains unidentified, conveys the deep significance of these items, which serve as incarnations of Gandhi’s ascetic lifestyle and his conviction that the practice of satyagraha must begin “with the individual, at home,” as he once explained.

Among the diverse artworks and artifacts on display will be iconic photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson from the tumultuous time of India’s independence and partition in 1947, along with another group taken just before and immediately after Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. Portraits and documents of Gandhi’s most important predecessors and contemporaries (Ruskin, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Sojourner Truth), as well as his most eminent followers and leaders of significant movements of social and political reform in the last decades are included. The exhibition will also present major works illustrating the complex artistic visualizations of non-violence throughout world religions including iconography based on themes of asceticism, compassion, abolition of slavery, and racial equality. Finally, artworks by modern and contemporary artists that resonate with Gandhi’s vision and contemplate in a critical way the unfinished conflicts of past and present will appear throughout the exhibition.

Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence begins with a gallery dedicated
to photographs by Margaret Bourke-White and Henri Cartier-Bresson showing Gandhi toward
the end of his life and the events surrounding his funeral. Posters and magazine photographs
that testify to the reverence he was accorded after his assassination lead the way toward
objects that show how other revered public figures, notably Abraham Lincoln, have been
depicted after death. Having opened this historical perspective, the exhibition presents
nineteenth-century photographs and documents of figures associated with spiritually inspired
movements for social change: Henry David Thoreau, Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, Florence
Nightingale, Henry Dunant (the founder of the Red Cross), and two authors who were especially
influential on Gandhi, John Ruskin and Leo Tolstoy. Also included in this initial gallery is a
selection of Indian carpets (which evoke Gandhi’s emphasis on handcraft) and the sculpture
Prayer Wheel (1954) by Jean Tinguely.

The opening events at the Menil Collection will coincide with the 145th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, October 2, 2014, and the exhibition will remain on view until February 1, 2015, before traveling to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva. In Houston the presentation will activate a city-wide initiative at various sites within the Menil campus and many cultural organizations in the city.

Curated by Menil Director, Josef Helfenstein, in consultation with Indian artist Amar Kanwar, Experiments with Truth will be accompanied by a publication intended to introduce the exhibition’s significant figures, ideas, historical events and trends to a non-specialist audience.

For more information: www.menil.org

 

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