Contemporary Art Market: Outsiders highlight culture clash

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the hottest new terms in contemporary artspeak is 'multiculturalism' and two pioneering exhibitions demonstrate that London is keeping up with the trend. The South London Gallery (65 Peckham Road, SE5) is showing the Indian artist Vivan Sundaram and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (The Mall, SW1) the Cherokee Jimmie Durham.

Multiculturalism implies an interest in art not produced in Paris, New York or other major centres that demonstrates the impact of late 20th century life on exotic cultures.

Vivan Sundaram is particularly popular in international art circles since he combines the conceptual approach of the Western avant-garde with Indian concerns. He has represented India at exhibitions across Asia, from Iraq to Japan, as well as showing in Cuba, Poland and Germany. This is his first one-man show in Britain.

Born in 1943, he studied art in Baroda, western India, then spent two years at the Slade School in London. About three years ago he followed the Western avant-garde by dropping easel painting in favour of installations and multi-media constructions.

His show at the South London Gallery is mostly a rumination on death. He has taken a news photograph of a dead man lying in a Bombay street during last year's riots, blown it up and beaten nails into it - to symbolise the human desire to hide memories of death (variants priced between pounds 500 and pounds 1,200). Another series turns handmade paper and engine oil into abstract monuments to the industrial past ( pounds 1,700 to pounds 3,500). But his most striking creation is a triumphal arch made of old tin trunks with a coffin-sized trunk on top; the stone pathway that runs under the arch is set at right angles to a gutter running with blood (red wine in reality) forming a symbol of the Crucifixion. The installation, Gateway, is priced at pounds 4,000.

Jimmie Durham, born in 1940 into the Wolf Clan in Nevada County, became involved with poetry and performance art in the Sixties and studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Geneva. He became a political activist in the American Indian Movement, returning to full-time art in 1985.

He had two New York shows in 1985, was seen at the Matt's Gallery, London, in 1988 and was considered one of the stars of the 9th Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany, in 1992.

His work is largely collage and installation using bits of junk wood, bone, beads, feathers on the one hand, and photos, plastic and other industrial materials on the other. He likes to play on the contrast of textures and turns the materials into art through a leavening of cranky humour, often incorporating primitively scribbled texts. Pieces are priced between dollars 1,800 ( pounds 1,200) and dollars 20,000 ( pounds 13,400).

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