crisis care catharsis


De-Luxe Tailor, 1972 Oil on canvas

Bhupen Khakhar was deeply committed to capturing the essence of the smalltown middle-class in India. Immersed in the flavors of the local and the immediate, the urban street became a rich source from which Khakhar extracted his characters, their daily mundane chores and loud and gaudy aesthetics hinged on popular/filmy aspirations. Khakhar’s banal pictoriality most appropriately marked the ordinary aspects of Indian suburban life, where people with so-called “petty vocations” such as barbers, watch repairers, tailors are rescued from the margins and given representation.

Two pieces of clothing hang at the top right corner of the painting, allowing a subtle entry into a regular day of the tailor shop. These clothes also refer to an absent human body, perhaps a cryptic sign referring to the artist’s not yet revealed sexual agency. After it was painted, this artwork was gifted to British artist Howard Hodgkin, also a friend of Khakhar. The painting was in Hodgkin’s private collection until sold in an auction.

Later, expressing his own sexuality, the artist’s focus shifted to gay agglomerations formed out of common concerns and desires of middle-aged men, who, as if misfits under societal scrutiny were out to explore a homoerotic world hidden in the city.