The post-Independence period in India ushered in a reassessment of the artists and movements in Indian art history. Bakre's sculpture, shown here, is testament to his position as a modern innovator, and is seminal in the establishment of a fresh, post-Colonial language in Indian art. Bakre was also the only sculptor within the Progressive Artist's Group; this supremely elegant structure demonstrates his skill. Featuring delicate struts which divide the plane, the symbolism is exemplified in the two stylised suns; while thoroughly modern for its time, it has a classic, timeless spirit.
Bakre’s first joint exhibitions were held at Baroda and Bombay in 1949, but his debut as the first modernist Indian sculptor to have a one-man exhibition happened in March of 1951 at the Bombay Art Society's Salon at 6 Rampart Row. 'The works of the sculptor Sadanand K. Bakre could be considered a bridge between the old realist tradition and the free forms that were being ushered in... his forays into portraiture, his narrative and abstract sculptures were an attempt at finding a contemporary expressive means.' (Y. Dalmia, ‘The View from the Wings’, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2001, p. 185). Bakre emerged from a strong academic tradition that was rooted in realism. His predecessors were Mhatre, Karmarkar and Phadke who had followed the strict canons of classical Western art. 'In breaking away from it, Bakre was committing an act of daring and fortitude.' (ibid. p. 189.) As the artist stated "I am traditionally trained and perfectly capable of accomplishing completely realistic work. But my interest in forms has gone far beyond the dull imitations of subject matter, which to me is almost unimportant." (S. K. Bakre, 'All Art Is Either Good or Bad', Free Press Bulletin, 24 March, 1965).
Just as Bakre's stylistic fluidity is evidenced in his entry for The Unknown Political Prisoner sculpture competition in Berlin, his sculpture of a semi-prostrate human figure lost to Reg Butler's geometric wire piece. The current lot was conceived in the period following this and is from Bakre's important 'spiky' phase; his jump towards abstraction, characterised by 'long spindly creatures looking as if from outer space. These were small triangles wedged into each other to create geometrical shapes that reached out aggressively from all sides. There was an undefinable sense of urgency about them, as they disrupted space and created sharp, projecting jolts.' (Dalmia, 2001, p. 194). Discussing this phase the artist states "I saw everything mathematically. Everything depended on three parts not four, so it became a spike... It was a geometrical, mathematical phase. I felt the need to do this from some unknown experience of balance." (S. K. Bakre, 'All Art Is Either Good or Bad', Free Press Bulletin, 24 March, 1965). The review in The Times for the 1959 Gallery One exhibition that included Untitled, describes Bakre's sculptures, 'poised among thin struts and spokes and tapering geometric wings of metal... these light and airy constructions have the appeal of unusually imaginative toys.' (The Times, London, 3 July, 1959).
Interestingly if one looks at Bakre's paintings from 1959 the same three-sided forms appear within his compositions (see Sotheby's London, May 2008, lot 37). These forms display a correlation with the works of Barbara Hepworth, see Hepworth's brass sculpture entitled Stringed Figure (Curlew) (Version I) from 1956. As well as the work of Hepworth, Bakre's geometrical approach to abstraction shows strong parrallels with the work of Picasso, Moore and Epstein. In Pablo Picasso's Project for a Monument to Guillaume Apollinaire, maquette of 1928, there is a similar exploration of line and space, with a precise scaffolding of interlocking spikes and triangles within a rectangular format. However as The Guardian critic, Eric Newton remarks, Bakre's works should not be regarded as pastiches of Picasso's work, and suggests 'that the Picassian idiom he often uses is not derivative but merely a coincidence. There is no reason why two artists attacking the same set of problems should not invent the same method of attack - the fierce scaffolding of heavy line, the expressive spiky forms.' (The Guardian, 9 February, 1961)
Bakre also felt a direct affinity with the Vorticists, to whom Jacob Epstein was associated. The Vorticists were 'known for their anti-realist character and they expressed the human figure and its surroundings in a jagged, rhythmical, and linear style... the vigour and energy of modern life was shown in taut, expressive forms that favoured the angular over the curved.' (Dalmia 2001, p. 195).
Two years after Untitled was created, Bakre went on to have a solo exhibition at the Commonwealth, South Kensington, London, which was received with high acclaim. 'In welded metal, he made elaborate patterns which are exquisite compositions fraught with tension and dissonances. Works like Mask or Symbol of Peace are geometrical with spiky shapes tightly welded into each other in perfect proportion and entirely free-standing... The sense of movement inherent in the composition is not kinetic as in Calder but emanates from the juxtapositions and balances of the shapes.' (ibid. p. 197).
This work by Bakre can therefore be regarded as not only a seminal work in this artist’s oeuvre, but amongst the most important sculptures created in modern India.
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