Opening and Reception with the Artist:
Title: Out and About, Photographs by Sunil Gupta
Date & Time: February 5, 2015 | 5 – 6:30 pm
Location: Whitney Humanities Center

Sunil Gupta
Queer Migrations: Family, Identity and Place
Whitney Humanities Center
Yale University
February 6th, 2015

In Queer Migrations: Family, Identity and Place, Sunil Gupta explores issues of cultural displacement or transposition, investigating the theme of individual identity, as it exists within the broader context of social mores and conventions. Two pivotal bodies of photographs, Homelands (2001-2003) and Mr. Malhotra’s Party (2007-), will be featured at Yale University from February 6, 2015 – , in conjunction with a series of seminars throughout the Spring on South Asian Photographs Across the Disciplines: The Uses of Visual Evidence, A Humanities/Humanity Project at the Whitney Humanities Center. 

Sunil Gupta’s series of large scale photographs entitled “Homelands” represent the artist’s journeys as a gay man with HIV from his homeland in India to his adopted homes in England and Canada. Presented as diptychs in oppositional pairings of location — East-West, inside-outside — Gupta’s bold narrative juxtapositions explore the inherent tensions which have shaped his experience of being a gay Indian man living in the West.

“At the end of 1999, an opportunity arose to make a more substantial body of work over a longer period of time with the support of an academic grant. I decided to continue with the HIV theme and the idea of visual juxtaposition that I had tried out in ‘From Here to Eternity.’ I wanted to connect the places that I had an affinity with: Northern India, the Northeastern part of the USA, and the eastern part of Canada. These places had been homes to me over the years and I wanted to make work about the journeys traveled between them.” ~Sunil Gupta, from Pictures from Here

In the 1980s Gupta worked on a series of constructed documentary color photographs of anonymous gay men in monumental architectural spaces in Delhi, entitled Exiles. Then, after a thirty-five year absence, Gupta returned to live in Delhi; the time corresponded with an intense lobbying campaign to change the colonial anti-sodomy law in India. Since the LGBT community is still under fire politically, private parties and the web are the spaces where people meet.

In Mr. Malhotra’s Party, Gupta visualizes the latest virtual queer space through a series of portraits of people who identify their sexuality as “queer” in some way. As they look directly into the camera they are willing to identify themselves—they become a part of an imaginary party: 

“There are no gay bars in Delhi but parties do happen and the way they get away with it is to post a notice saying that it’s a private party. The place we always went to had a different name every week. One day it was called Mr Malhotra’s Party. Malhotra is a typical name that comes from the Punjabi refugees of the Partition of India in 1948, and like hard working migrant Punjabis everywhere in the world, they built New Delhi.”~Sunil Gupta

Sunil Gupta is an artist, writer, activist, and curator.

Sunil Gupta was born in New Delhi in 1953, where he lived until his family moved to Montreal in the late 1960s. His education brought him to New York, where he studied art, and then London, where he received his MA, and where he still resides. He has, however, remained a Canadian citizen, particularly in his desire to explore the many facets that comprise his identity.

Since the early 1980s, Gupta has continued to delve into projects that are self-referential by nature, but universal in their outcome. Beyond his diverse cultural influences, his work has dealt with a number of issues surrounding homosexuality, particularly the personal and social implications in both Eastern and Western societies.

When he was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1995, he chose not to allow his medical condition to become the single governing factor in his work, however it has gradually became an important informant. In Homelands, Gupta’s large-scale colour diptychs explore the connections between the diverse landscapes that he has an affinity with: Northern India, Eastern Canada, North Eastern USA, and England. He confronts these landscapes both as an artist who is HIV-positive, and as a man whose life in the west differs greatly from that which he would have lived had he never left India.

Gupta’s work has been seen in over 90 international solo and group exhibitions. His curatorial efforts are paramount in the monumental exhibition, “Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh” at Whitechapel Gallery, London and Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland.

Gupta’s published work includes two monographs: Pictures From Here (2003) and Wish You Were Here: Memories of a Gay Life (2008).

Featured Image:
Sunil Gupta
Aarti, M-Block Market, Greater Kailash-1: , 2011
from “Mr. Malhotra’s Party”
19 x 19” Archival Inkjet Print
Signed, titled, dated, and numbered in pencil on print verso 1/5, Edition of 5 + 2AP
© Sunil Gupta, courtesy sepiaEYE