It was a humid and sultry night on Saturday. Very few galleries were open, as many owners have decided to head to the highlands for August, or at least give the business of art a break. And yet, here were people wondering Wynwood, and not necessarily the average art crowd. There were new residents of Midtown, and those out for a pre-dining stroll. It felt like …. a real city.
Hopefully, they walked through one of the doors that was open, that of Gallery I/D. Once again, this new gallery focused on photography delivered a solid and sensuous show, one that should have intrigued the crowd this night.
“Sundara: Faces of India,” a series that could loosely be called travel photos from Polish-born Karolina Wajtosik, thankfully avoided all the cliches associated with such a genre and such a country as India. First off, these are portraits, beautifully cropped and somewhat simple. There are tell-tales signs of the vibrant colors and light that blanket the Subcontinent, but surprisingly not in the typical way we’ve come to expect.
Wajtosik’s “travelogue” consists of shots of individuals she encountered on her journey from the south up to the border of Nepal. “There are no street scenes here,” according to the gallery notes. “No images of temples, beggars or prostitutes.” Thank god. Instead, we see the up-close faces of Indians living their lives, rarely delivering that expected smile.
There’s the pensive face of a bearded man with his butter-colored turban and face paint, being under lit by what might be a fire burning on the ground below him. There’s the more anxious face of a girl wearing a woven red cap with a turbulent twilight sky brewing behind her. And the man with a brown corduroy jacket, starring with his green eyes directly at the camera.
These are rural, poor, mostly northern Indians we see, infused with a solitude and somberness not usually associated with frenetic modern Indian life or colorful Hindu festivals. But the images are not depressing, and not judgmental on the individual’s station in society. “Sundara” means beautiful in Sanskrit, and clearly Wojtasik found beauty in the lives she visited. In fact, most of her subjects were people she stayed with. “I was struck by their sense of welcoming and humanity, happily surprised at how they took me in for weeks at a time,” says the photographer of people who had very little to share to begin with. That humanity jumps out from the frames, part of what makes this exhibit a worthwhile journey in itself.
“Sundara: Faces of India” through August (although because of the good response, it may be extended a week) at Gallery I/D, 2531 NW 2nd Ave., Miami; 305-753-2881; www.galleryid.com.