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Peppercorn, 2018  Teak wood and lacquered wood

23 1/2” x 24” x 3 1/2”

Earth Songs for a Night Sky is a multi-faceted project by Ranjani Shettar (b. 1977, Bangalore, India). Drawing from her environment in rural India—with changing skies, monsoon rains, and lush vegetation—and employing traditional materials such as teak wood and indigo pigment, and techniques of carving, dyeing, and lacquer, Shettar has created hand-carved wood sculptures, a multi-part piece that wraps up the gallery walls, and an ethereal installation made of thread and wax. Occupying two rooms and the staircase of the original Phillips House, the project is conceived in dialogue with Wassily Kandinsky’s artist’s book Klänge (Sounds)—which features 56 woodcuts and was published right after he had made his breakthrough into abstraction—and Klee’s late paintings in the Phillips’s collection, including Arab Song (1932), Efflorescence (1937), and Figure of the Oriental Theater (1934).

"Sharing with Klee and Kandinsky a visible spirituality refracted through their respective cultures and centuries, Shettar grounds her imaginative sculptures in organic materials crafted into shapes that evoke nature."

Washington City Press

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Prelude, 2019  Teak wood and lacquered wood

5 1/2” x 14” x 5 1/2”

For Shettar, the connection between her work and Kandinsky’s book and Klee’s paintings is more metaphysical than visual. As she says, “I relate to the surreal and abstract qualities of both Kandinsky’s poetry and images. In Klee, I find a formal and thematic playfulness that I strive to achieve in my own work.” Undeniably, what the work of the three artists have in common is a tension between the material world and spiritual aspirations, observation and introspection, and the act of seeing, making, and reflecting. Shettar lives and works in the Shimoga district of Karnataka in South India. Her artwork has been exhibited and collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and Guggenheim Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi; among others.

Exhibition Views

Exhibition Views Thumbnails

Monsoon, 2019

Stainless steel, fabric, tamarind seed glue and indigo pigment

108 1/4” x 461” x 18” (dimensions variable)

Monsoon, 2019

Monsoon (detail)

Monsoon (detail)

Monsoon (detail)

From under and above, 2018-2019

Teak wood

10 3/4″ x 48″ x 19 1/4″

From under and above, 2018-2019

Shifting shores, 2019

Teak wood and pigment (in 21 parts)

20″ x 70″ (dimensions variable)

Shifting shores (detail)

Mohana, 2019

Thread and hand-molded beeswax

94” x 53” x 55”

Mohana, 2019

Prelude, 2019

Teak wood and lacquered wood

5 1/2” x 14” x 5 1/2”

A little bit of tilt, 2019

Teak wood and lacquered wood

6″ x 6″ x 6″

Smoke Rings, 2018

Teak wood and lacquered wood

35 1/2” x 31 1/2″ x 9 1/2” & 18” x 26 1/2″ x 7 1/2”

Smoke Rings, 2018

Smoke Rings (detail)

Smoke Rings (detail)

Peppercorn, 2018

Teak wood and lacquered wood

23 1/2” x 24” x 3 1/2”

Monsoon, 2019

Stainless steel, fabric, tamarind seed glue and indigo pigment

108 1/4” x 461” x 18” (dimensions variable)

Monsoon, 2019

Monsoon (detail)

Monsoon (detail)

Monsoon (detail)

From under and above, 2018-2019

Teak wood

10 3/4″ x 48″ x 19 1/4″

From under and above, 2018-2019

Shifting shores, 2019

Teak wood and pigment (in 21 parts)

20″ x 70″ (dimensions variable)

Shifting shores (detail)

Mohana, 2019

Thread and hand-molded beeswax

94” x 53” x 55”

Mohana, 2019

Prelude, 2019

Teak wood and lacquered wood

5 1/2” x 14” x 5 1/2”

A little bit of tilt, 2019

Teak wood and lacquered wood

6″ x 6″ x 6″

Smoke Rings, 2018

Teak wood and lacquered wood

35 1/2” x 31 1/2″ x 9 1/2” & 18” x 26 1/2″ x 7 1/2”

Smoke Rings, 2018

Smoke Rings (detail)

Smoke Rings (detail)

Peppercorn, 2018

Teak wood and lacquered wood

23 1/2” x 24” x 3 1/2”

Alwar Balasubramaniam and Ranjani Shettar
Alwar Balasubramaniam and Ranjani Shettar
Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century March 6 - September 12, 2021

The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art, celebrates its centennial with Seeing Differently. The exhibition marks the first major celebration of the museum’s permanent collection in over 10 years and includes works by Paul Klee, Mondrian, Rothko, Pollock, Picasso, de Kooning, Calder, Jacob Lawrence and Ranjani Shettar amongst others...

The Georgetown Dish
The Georgetown Dish
Ranjani Shettar’s Sculpture at the Phillips Collection July 14, 2019

Earth Songs for a Night Sky, a multi-faceted project by Ranjani Shettar (b. 1977, Bangalore, India) is on exhibit through August 25, 2019 at The Phillips Collection. 

Washington City Press
Washington City Press
Ranjani Shettar’s Earth Songs for a Night Sky Enchants with Assorted Materials at the Phillips Collection June 28, 2019

With pieces made of steel, wood, and other materials, the sculptor's work depicts elements of nature.

Culture Radar
Culture Radar
Where Creativity Intersects June 6, 2019

It is safe to say that little, if any, art is created in a vacuum. But rarely is the connection so direct as in Ranjani Shettar’s exhibition “Earth Songs for a Night Sky,” at The Phillips Collection. 

Ideel Art
Ideel Art
What do Ranjani Shettar and Wassily Kandinsky Have in Common? June 3, 2019

This summer, Indian artist Ranjani Shettar debuted a new body of work inspired by the words and woodcut images in Klänge.

Artdaily
Artdaily
India-based Ranjani Shettar creates project in response to Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee May 21, 2019

The Phillips Collection presents its first Intersections project of 2019, Earth Songs for a Night Sky, featuring seven sculptural pieces by Ranjani Shettar (b. 1977, Bangalore, India). 

DCist
DCist
Ranjani Shettar's Wooden Sculptures are Hanging Out at the Phillips Collection May 20, 2019

If you come at twilight, you’ll see them: the distorted circular shadows on the walls next to the original Phillips House staircase.

Artforum
Artforum
Ranjani Shettar September 2018

The Indian Artist Ranjani Shettar first exhibited in the United States in 2003, just three years after getting her MFA in Bangalore, and has shown here steadily ever since.

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