More than forty years have passed since minimalist artists first began incorporating the space of the gallery into their artistic work, but the impact of sculpture that reflects the inherent possibilities and limitations of its setting has hardly diminished. This practice is fundamental to the work of the artist Ranjani Shettar, although her focus is not solely on the display environment or even the notion of sculpture as it is understood in this realm. Rather, for Shettar the immanent aspects of her sculptures are central, and the viewer is meant to discover, or realize, something that is manifested by them. When we take in her installations and come to understand that "something," we become part of the work, inextricably entwined with its meaning within the space it inhabits. This experiential aspect-the overlap that occurs between perceiving the work and being a part of it-is integral to Shettar's approach and the significance of her sculptural installations. They explore the tension that exists between experiencing artistic forms in real space and the way that observing them leads to an idealized form within the consciousness of the viewer.
The complexity of Shettar’s work derives in part from the craft traditions she references and the universality of the objects she creates. With its intricate woven texture, her sculpture Me, no, not me resembles a series of conventional baskets, ubiquitous objects that retain specific associations with preindustrial handwork. Yet Shettar wove these forms not from natural fibers, but from colorful strips of metal that she salvaged from discarded automobiles in a scrapyard near Bangalore. Additionally, she interlaced the strips over a steel framework, so what at first seems to be an organic grouping of handmade objects derived from a craft tradition proves to be entirely industrial in nature. The artist’s own account of her journey to the scrapyard is one of the discovery of a world normally invisible to Individuals such as herself. Although the work is not intended to be didactic, part of the significance of Me, no, not me is rooted in this collision between traditional nodes of production and the detritus of the globalized, hyper consumerist economy. And yet the context that gave rise to the work is no more than the background against which the depth of its meaning emerges.
Artists featured in the Rooftop Garden’s inaugural exhibition include Robert Arneson, Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Luciano Fabro, Ellsworth Kelly, Mario Merz, Juan Munoz, Barnett Newman, Joel Shapiro, Ranjani Shettar, and Kiki Smith. Sculptures will be comprised of works from the museum’s collection that were either recently acquired or that are rarely seen. Highlights include Alexander Calder’s Big Crinkly (1969); Stele I (1973), by Ellsworth Kelly; and Zim Zum I (1969), by Barnett Newman. Also on view will be recent gifts of artwork donated specifically for display in the new space, including The Lens of Rotterdam (1988), by Mario Merz, a gift from the Dodie and John N. Rosekrans Jr.-Runnymede Collection; and Joel Shapiro’s Untitled (1983–87), a gift from Shirley Ross Davis.