Linger Still – Kaveri Raina at Assembly Room

curated by Emily Burns

Linger Still, (installation view). Image courtesy of Assembly Room Gallery

Diaspora consciousness is an acute mindfulness of one’s cultural origins post-migration. This awareness can be, “heightened by communication and visits, and is retained in memories, storytelling and other creative forms.” Individuals or families who take the risk to migrate must navigate a series of unanticipated complexities away from the support of their families and communities. For those who choose to leave or flee from their homelands the sensation of “otherness” is a pervasive factor in their quest for opportunities, stability, and safety. This uncanny sensation serves as the conceptual pulse and subtle heartbeat for Kaveri Raina’s solo exhibition “Linger Still,” curated by Emily Burns currently on view at Assembly Room Gallery.

Kaveri Raina, Le mon Or ange, to hover, acrylic and burlap, 48 x 36 inches, 2019. Image courtesy of Assembly Room Gallery

Raina, who grew up in Delhi India, migrated to the American Midwest with her family at the age of eleven. The experience of settling in a new country and adjusting to a different culture during adolescents has shaped her personal philosophies and artistic path. Her atypical method of painting incorporates a toolkit of disruptions. For Raina the process of painting or drawing is an open-ended dance of mark making, chance, and erasure. In the studio Raina will systematically rotate the orientation of a work in progress, layer billows of graphite marks over and under painted forms, and pour paint onto the obverse of a work which then seeps through to the front, creating ghost-like impressions. The decision to embrace such obstructions gives the work an unpinnable quality representative of a journey that does not end once the destination is reached.

The gallery’s main room contains a collection of seven works, two large works one fabric, the other on canvas installed on the west wall. The remaining five works are a range of medium sized paintings on burlap hung throughout the space. The show includes recent work from 2018 to the present and symbolizes a shift from the past work as Raina exchanges vibrant jewel-toned surfaces with fields of muted unaltered burlap. Attenuated shadows, plump fruit, and ambiguous silhouettes rendered in peculiar pairings of hooker green, cadmium orange, icey blue, lilac, medium yellow, and red oxide mingle in the center of each painting. There is no foreground, no sky, and no gravity in these works as abstracted figures cohabitate upon the raw khaki colored substratum. The coarse tactility of the unbleached burlap derails lines, absorbs pigment, and slur graphite marks.

Kaveri Raina, Sense of Doom, acrylic, graphite, burlap, 30 x 24 inches, 2018-2019. Image courtesy of Assembly Room Gallery

Raina, began intuitively investigating burlap as material in 2015 while in graduate school at The Art Institute of Chicago. Only after she became familiar with formal capabilities of the material did Raina remember, “seeing empty burlap rice sacks around the trash can ready to be thrown out”, in her parent’s home in Delhi. This memory from childhood further solidified a connection between the humble textile and her personal history. Imbued with a new sense of cultural significance, burlap became a principal material for Raina who then sought, “to elevate the dejected material through painting.” By way of medium choice and color Raina formally examines her own history through memories in order to heal, regain, and reaffirm a sense of identity. The works in “Linger Still” grasp an abstruse third identity, one which is constantly, “figuring out a sense of location, space, and place,”as she says. The state of in-betweenness defines this selection of paintings which posses an ancient yet ever evolving quality.

Linger Still, (installation view). Image courtesy of Assembly Room Gallery

In the back viewing room a grid of nine graphite drawing on white paper serve as a key for unlocking the coded abstract forms that inhabit Raina’s paintings. While attending Skowhegan in the summer of 2017, Raina was pushed to focus more time and attention on drawing as a discipline. Over the course of a subsequent residency at Lighthouse works she committed to honing her hand and dedicated the six weeks to producing a volume of works on paper. Although drawing is a new addition to Raina’s practice, it has become important cornerstone for her process. Through this series of drawings it’s evident that the clouds of repetitive graphite gestures visible in the paintings on burlap originated on these pristine 11 x 14 surfaces. Crisp lines, gradients, and layers ebbing forms rendered in shades of gray sit in contrast against the stark white ground of the paper. The inclusion of these works grant viewers valuable insight into Raina’s methodology of image making.

Kaveri Raina, Hover to Dissolve, graphite, oil pastel, fabric, 80 x 57 inches, 2018-2019. Image courtesy of Assembly Room Gallery

Kaveri Raina, Droopy Ponytail, acrylic on burlap, 24 x 16 inches, 2018.  Image courtesy of Assembly Room Gallery

Assembly Room Gallery, an impeccably maintained white-walled storefront space, is a fitting setting for Raina’s work which explores the ever shifting nature of selfhood. The intimately sized gallery, a long and narrow space with a back viewing room, is nestled on Henry Street, in an obscure zone where the Lower East Side, Chinatown, and Two Bridges neighborhoods fuse. The space is directed by the vision of Natasha Becker, Paolo Gallo, and Yulia Topchiy a trio of women who generatively extend their platform to the art community. The gallery hosts frequent open calls that allow independent curators the opportunity to realize their visions. Such was the case for “Linger Still,” a proposed exhibition submitted by curator Emily Burns who championed Raina’s work. Assembly Room Gallery provides valuable space, resources, and guidance for female curators and innovators to come together.

Linger Still, Kaveri Raina’s solo exhibition curated by Emily Burns will be on view at Assemble Room Gallery 191 Henry Street until May 12th 2019.

Katie Hector is an artist, curator, and writer living and working in New York City. While holding a studio practice Hector is also an independent curator and the Co-director of Sine Gallery which represents emerging and mid-career interdisciplinary artists . She has worked to organize and fundraise a variety of projects including international exhibitions, site specific environmental installations, and over two dozen group shows, screenings, pop up events, and panel discussions.