I’ve an admission to make: I’ve been playing a little game, waiting for someone to call me out on the fact that I’ve placed a book of 17th century paintings in a section reserved for contemporary South Asian art. But you’ve got to admit: on the surface, it’s not an easy call.
You’d be forgiven for imagining the cover of Tantra Song a study on Ellsworth Kelly’s Stele I, pictured here in SFMoMA’s rooftop garden.
Or perhaps that the above painting recalls Kazimir Malevich or El Lissitzky, two great Suprematist artists of the early 20th century Soviet avant-garde.
Happening upon the paintings in 1970s Paris, the French poet Franck André Jamme was moved to discover their origin. So inspired was he by the fact that these paintings contained the freshness and composition of 20th century work, he traveled to Rajasthan to study their origin (with disastrous results).
Art history is littered with such stories of accident and chance, of artists from disparate cultures finding reference and inspiration. Tantra Song does what my favorite kinds of books do, drawing together two distinct traditions, affirming that the walls between worlds are far more permeable than we imagine them.
It’s the “two great tastes that taste great together” school, and lest you think this is scholarly stuff, the publisher, Siglio, points out that the book possesses some rather serious popular appeal.
You can read more over at Maria Popova’s addictive culture blog, Brain Pickings, or drop by the museum store to take a look at the book and talk French poetry–and yes, I do have the best job in the world.
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