Known for his masterful, emotive lines shaping his sensuous figures, Jogen Chowdhury (b. 1939, India) creates haunting works that draw from the complexities of his cultural background in Bengal and his own personal life, having lived through the Partition, dislocation and isolation. Marrying traditional imagery and lived, contemporary experiences, he explores the depth of the human condition through imbuing expressive distortion and sensory details on his figures. The results are subjects that radiate a sense of enigma and psychological tension—hinting at larger narratives that go beyond the work and onto reality.

Elephant Man showcases a rare work of sculpture by Chowdhury depicting the elephant god Ganesha, a nod to Chowdhury’s earlier works that similarly explored the ubiquitous icon. Rather than depicting Ganesha as nourished and divine, the sculpture abounds in raw, human imperfections: its body is thin and depleting; its flesh is wrinkled and aging. The artist has stated before that the symbol is not intended to comment on the deity itself, but reveal the hypocrisies pervasive among the Bengali business class—those who worship the icon yet are steeped in corruption. The sculpture evocatively shows how these personalities are far from the gods they worship: rather, in Chowdhury’s words, they “degenerate just like the flesh”.

Installation view of Elephant Man at TWENTYFIVE (Gajah Gallery, 2021).