Rina Banerjee title graphic

Banerjee conveys a vision of identity that resists simple categorization. While her works often reflect her South Asian ancestry, they are not limited by biography, ethnicity, race, or class. A similar elasticity of boundaries is evident in her hybrid characters, which contain associations with the feminine but avoid socially constructed expectations of gender. Seeking to transcend labels and reject fixed definitions, Banerjee frames identity as an ongoing process of negotiation and personal choice.

Often more than fifty words long and filled with idiosyncratic spelling and free association, Banerjee’s titles represent her rebellion against the worldwide dominance of the English language. These titles, she says, are “my attempt to massage [the English language] to speak for a vast number of people who use it sparingly, awkwardly, creatively under the pressures of globalization, colonization, and the commercialization of English culture.” Her orchestration of seemingly unrelated words and phrases encourages an intuitive grasp of the meanings that may reside in each work.

Viola, from New Orleans-ah, an African Woman, was the 19th century’s rescue worker, a global business goods raker, combed, tilled the land of Commerce, giving America a certain extra extra excess culture, to cultivate it, making home for aliens not registered, made business of the finer, finer, had occupations, darning thread not leisure with reason and with luster, in “peek a boo” racial disguises preoccupied in circulating commerce, entertaining white folks, pulling and punching holes in barriers, place that where was once barren, without them, white banks made of mustard and made friendly folks feel home, welcomed and married immigrants from far noted how they been also starved, fled from servitude and colonial dangers, ships like dungeons, pushing coal in termite wholes, churning fire, but always learning, folding, washing, welcomed as aliens. She wandering, hosting, raising children connected to new mobilities and most unusual these movements in Treme’, New Orleans was a incubating, enmeshed embedded in this silken cocoon when she land, she’s came to be parachute mender, landed those black immigrant peddlers from Hoogali network of new comers, 2017
Murano glass horns, Indian rakes, seed beads, steel, Yoruba African mask, oyster shells, cowrie shells, Charlotte dolls, polyester horse hair trim, Korean silks, Indian silks, vintage Kashmir shawls, French wire Ferris wheel, Congolese elbow bangles, colonial mirror sconces, Japanese seed glass beads, sequins, threads
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Museum Purchase, 2017.53

This work relates to the real-life story of Viola Ida Lewis, a Black woman from New Orleans who, in 1906, married Joseph Abdin, a South Asian immigrant. For Banerjee, their marriage illustrates the African American community’s acceptance of Bengali immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These displaced Indians were generally documented by the government as mulatto or black, making them subject to the same discrimination experienced by African Americans. Nevertheless, they established themselves in New Orleans, often starting import businesses, bringing silks and embroidered fabrics like those assembled here.

More like turkey no turtle she scattered her verbal, 2015

Ink, acrylic, 23-karat gold, copper on paper

Courtesy of Diana Nelson and John Atwater

A Jane of all trades, a bricolage advantageous in action, courageous in thought her girlish splendor never burdened by disposable culture could safeguard against snake bites with nets woven by nails as her nature was not frail, 2011

Acrylic and ink on paper

Courtesy of Tamar Efrat

The gene was his mule. Mendel with his peas in the monastery in thick garden made variety, made mischief while green ponds, unripe flower took to crossing, blended fluids so dominant was recessive, 2014

Acrylic, ink, marbled paper collage on watercolor paper

Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Shanghai/Singapore/Tokyo

This work relates to the experiments of the Augustinian friar and scientist Gregor Mendel, whose study of dominant and recessive patterns of inherited genes ushered in the modern age of genetics. A collage of bizarre figures, landscapes, and biological forms, The gene was his mule is a metaphor for the fluid nature of identity. By employing hybrid styles and an ambiguous narrative, Banerjee underscores the fact that genetic inheritance is rarely pure or geographically distinctive but instead is generally a combination of lineages.

Buried in stump while knitted together at side in a illusion a roar of birds and predators pickled on earth in one spray of air played, 2015

Blue silver leaf, ink, acrylic on birch wood panel

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels

A Mad Woman, an Eternal Eve, a Monkey cheated leaped, from limb to limp in open air, curled a mischievous and bulbous melancholy in tail that sailed and with a single cough, a sudden drip, a curtain of bubbles, tears spilled to send land liquids, fertilizer, all fluid migrations leaking abroad and across, 2012

Steel structure, plastic horn, fans, 500-watt bulbs, balls, wire, sari cloth

Private collection

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