Artist Jitish Kallat's 10 most memorable works

Jitish Kallat, 49, has used rotis to represent the moon and a fogscreen to play with ideas of hate and

Updated on Feb 02, 2023 10:41 PM IST 10 Photos

Modus Vivendi (1000 people – 1000 Homes), 2000: In this self-portrait, a work of mixed media on canvas, Kallat appears as a swaggering, bespectacled juggler of heart and brain. The painting is an exploration of selfhood in the city of Mumbai, where he grew up and lives. The individual, lost in the multitudes, wanders in a state of perpetual disorientation, as reflected in the work. The radiating streaks of red, orange and green, reminiscent of thermal imagery, were achieved by texturing the canvas with layers of paint or canvas and then peeling off some parts to attain the desired visual effect.(Courtesy: Jitish Kallat)

Covering Letter, 2012: Projected onto a fog screen, this installation showcases a letter written by Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler a few weeks before Germany invaded Poland in 1939, in effect starting World War 2. In his letter, Gandhi made an urgent appeal for peace. He began his note with the words “Dear Friend”, even though he was addressing one of the most violent people in history. As the words ascend through a film of mist, the audience can walk through it, inhabiting and dissipating the text. The title comes from the idea that Gandhi’s letter, which is sadly always relevant, acts as a “covering letter” to the endless resumé of human violence.(Courtesy: Jitish Kallat)

Public Notice 3, 2010: This installation was erected at the grand staircase of the Art Institute of Chicago, where Swami Vivekananda delivered his groundbreaking speech at the World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893. The speech, about Hinduism and religious tolerance, was delivered exactly 108 years before the 9/11 attacks on New York, which would make that date synonymous with terror. Public Notice 3, created using LED bulbs, wires and rubber, illuminated Vivekananda’s words on the risers of the staircase in five colors — green, blue yellow, orange and red, the colors of the post-9/11 homeland security alerts denoting terror-threat levels.(Courtesy: Jitish Kallat)


Epilogue, 2010-11: In this work, created with pigment print on archival paper, Kallat builds an ode to his late father, KS Kutty, by representing the 22,889 moons of his lifetime using rotis. These “lunar rotis” are a recurring motif in Kallat’s work, representing life in its most essential components — daily bread, routine — even as those connect with a shared, eternally recurring celestial phenomenon. The lone moon at the end of the display is from the night of December 1, 1998, the day of Kallat’s father’s death.(Courtesy: Jitish Kallat)

Rain Study (The Hour of the Day of the Month of the Season), 2016-18: This series of work of graphite and acrylic epoxy on paper consists of drawings that resemble star fields and other astronomical imagery. They were created by exposing the paper briefly to rain, then overlaying it with fast-drying paint. Each work bears the letters BC and a number denoting the duration for which it was exposed to the rain, measured in breath cycles of the artist.(Courtesy: Jitish Kallat)