The Met Breuer
945 Madison Ave. at 75th St.
Through September 29, suggested admission $12-$25
It’s a shame that Indian artist Mrinalini Mukherjee didn’t live long enough to see her lovely Met Breuer retrospective, “Phenomenal Nature.” This first major US survey follows the career of Mukherjee, who passed away in 2015 at the age of sixty-five, as she balanced between figuration and abstraction, the traditional and the modern, and Western and non-Western modalities while moving from fiber wall hangings and free-standing works to ceramic and bronze objects. The show, arranged chronologically, features her feminist totems that at times evoke a walk through the Star Wars Cantina, populated by strange and intriguing, often erotically charged creatures.
Inspired by nature, Mukherjee’s colorful fiber and hemp sculptures reference both humans and animals and bear Sanskrit names such as Apsara (Celestial Nymph), Yakshi (Female Forest Deity), Rudra (Deity of Terror), and Black Devi (Black Goddess). Thoughtfully curated by Shanay Jhaveri, it’s a menagerie of snakes, peacocks, palm fronds, flowers, and figures with sexual organs that form their own kind of iconography; other pieces mimic furniture, from chairs to lamps, but there is nothing mundane about Mukherjee’s oeuvre, which she intended to be seen as an artistic whole rather than craft pieces. “My work is physical — my body, my materials, the way of life, the environment, all work together,” she said. The fifty-seven works are on view through September 29, a poignant introduction to a sadly little-known artist you can learn more about at the free MetFridays lecture “Mrinalini Mukherjee: Materials and Experience,” with Julia Bryan-Wilson, Fred Moten, and Jhaveri at the Met Fifth Ave. at 6:30 on September 27.