From the Ocean of Painting: India’s Popular Painting Traditions, 1589-present

January 19–March 12, 1995

The first American exhibition to comprehensively survey India's ethnic arts—as distinct from "high art" created through aristocratic patronage—the exhibition includes work from India's peasant villages, remote tribal settings and urban centers.

Artists range from professionals to amateurs, reflecting the common incorporation of the arts into everyday life in India. Painted temple cloths, intricate illustrations of religious events, painted leather shadow puppets, manuscript illustrations, fortunetelling cards and reverse painting on glass are on display alongside stylized portraits and adventure scenes.

Organized around ritual, iconic and narrative themes, the exhibition includes 101 works spanning more than 20 painting traditions from 25 regions. Despite the wide range of media and styles, the paintings share such characteristics as recurring motifs, bold design, bright color and the use of both imagery and text.

The exhibition was curated by Chicago Imagist artist Barbara Rossi, who in searching for sources for her own work has become an authority on the folk arts of India.

Organized by presented by the University of Iowa Museum of Art, the exhibition traveled to the Smart Museum of Art and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.