Bhasha Chakrabarti: When I Get That Mood Indigo

M+is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by Bhasha Chakrabarti. When I Get That Mood Indigo is the artist’s first show with the gallery and runs from July 28 through September 11, 2021, with an opening reception on Saturday, July 31 from 6 to 8pm at M+B Doheny (470 N. Doheny Drive).


Join us on Saturday, July 31 at 5pm for a conversation between Bhasha Chakrabarti and Alexandra M. Thomas, art critic/PhD candidate in the History of Art and African-American Studies at Yale University, on the occasion of Chakrabarti’s exhibition When I Get That Mood Indigo. The opening reception will be from 6 to 8pm.


Bhasha Chakrabarti dances with Indigo and divulges its secrets. Truth be told, we are all touched by the color as it proliferates the interstices of South x South ecologies. While its etymology identifies Indigo as a “product of India,” the history of the blue dye is globalized — major 18th century Indigo plantations were found in India and the American South, forging a commercial entanglement between the so-called “old world” and “new world” orchestrated by the profiteering colonial metropole in Europe. Chakrabarti represents these overlapping imperial cartographies in “It’s a Blue World” (2021) by threading ancient and colonial era Indigo trade routes on a global map. Crafting these works with Indigo sourced from around the globe on quilted fabric, Chakrabarti traces the transnational history of this blue pigment and dye, while simultaneously affirming that mapmaking and quiltmaking are worldmaking endeavors.

The Duke Ellington jazz standard, “Mood Indigo,” from which this exhibition takes its title proclaims; “You ain’t never been blue, till you’ve had that mood Indigo.” Indigo is often referred to as the bluest blue. This becomes an aperture through which Chakrabarti experiments with the color blue… In To Be So Black and Blue (Chiffon as Shyama Sundara (2019-2021), Chakrabarti transposes a painting of Chiffon (her friend and fellow artist) onto one of her quilts, styled in the blue hue and accoutrements (a peacock feather) of the Hindu God Krishna, also known as, Shyama Sundara, using oil paints that she has milled from Guatemalan Indigo.

The Black figures on Chakrabarti’s quilts are rendered in smoky, vibrant blue hues, and given African-American musical lyrics/titles in the Blues-inflected tradition of Jazz. Black Americanness, and the sentiment that “Black is Beautiful” is a global reckoning to be made, informs Chakrabarti’s excavations of alluring Indigo scenes in her own cultural heritage. This is not a case of a non-Black artist trafficking in the hyper-visibility and racial fetishism of Blackness, but instead the artwork produced out of Chakrabarti’s intimacies with Black life, Black thought, and through a rigorous study of Black and Asian solidarities and intimacies.


When I Get That Mood Indigo is a radical, multisensory poetics that: crosses the Indian Ocean and the Mason-Dixon line; inherits traditions of bricolage; animates the sonic-visual potentials of textiles; and mines the terrain where Black and Blue touch. That Mood Indigo," thus, is not merely to feel blue in terms of sadness, but also to be enchanted with vivacious uprising against the elite, the global histories of Blackness, and a color that is ubiquitous and overflowing with riddles left unsolved.


— excerpted from "When I Get That Mood Indigo: South x South Ecologies and Black-Asian Intimacies" by Alexandra M. Thomas (New Haven, July 2021). To read the full text, click here.





List Indigo//what we talk about when we talk about the blues

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then black I am blacking out and yet my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

— Adrienne Rich, from “Diving into the Wreck”


Jorge Luis Borges once attempted in a story, to bring together a fictitious taxonomy of animals as written in an imaginary Chinese encyclopedia. The listing configured animals as those who had just left the room, those who broke a vase, those colored white, and those whose hair had been combed and so on. The listing was eventually used (by Foucault, in The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences) to explain the arbitrary and possibly infinite nature that classifications embody, an attempt to point to our feeble efforts to limit and list the world around us. Bhasha Chakrabarti's work on Indigo, the color blue, its dyeing, making, mailing, its histories, its geographies, its politics, its patience, its soak, its weave, its drying, its dust, its blueing, its fading, its songs, and its labour, it's revolution, its dismay, and its boundless horizon resonates probably another infinite list. This essay is a long, yet possibly incomplete inventory of Bhasha's work, her influences, her archives, her making of art, time, and her life.


Of Indigo Time//archives

⁃  The mythical Hindu god Krishna has always been associated with the color blue, the blue-bodied Krishna, who could also have been black bodied.

⁃  “What did I do to be so black and blue?” (Louis Armstrong)

⁃  Indigo has been cultivated and used by humans for over 4 millennia, from the Indus Valley, to Mesopotamia, to Ancient Egypt, to Mayan civilizations.

⁃  It takes hours of waiting to prepare an Indigo vat. Bhasha waits. She occupies the time with sketching, painting, and sewing.

⁃  It took about six months to carry Indigo in a ship to Europe, before the 1860's.

⁃  It takes about 7 days for Indigo to ferment.

⁃  People were enslaved, forced into debt, and brutalized for lifetimes and even generations as laborers on Indigo plantations in the Americas and South Asia.

⁃  Bhasha explains that time moves differently when you make or when you slip into labor and work, and it’s not just the time of hands, but also the time of the archives.

⁃  The sadness of the blues can also last a lifetime.

⁃  In 1876, the British banned the play Nil Darpan as seditious, based on Indigo farmers and their revolt, under the Dramatic Performances Act.

⁃  Bhasha has received another packet today from Lagos, Nigeria, yesterday she got one from Bangladesh.

⁃  Post-17th century, the Europeans are expanding their trade and slavery empires, now new plantations of Indigo have come up in the West Indies and Central America (Haiti, Jamaica, and Guatemala).

⁃  Bhasha grew up in Hawaii with the blue seas.

⁃  Histories are like seepage, they stain you in different ways; sometimes the soak is too long, and the color comes deeper in you, like the blues.

⁃  There are many shipwrecks and spills as an artist, you just get up and start making again.

⁃  The time of your work has come, as Borges once said in another story.


— by Sarover Zaidi, a philosopher and social anthropologist who teaches at the Jindal School of Art & Architecture, New Delhi. To read the full text, click here.


Bhasha Chakrabarti (b. 1991, Honolulu, HI) is an MFA candidate in Painting and Printmaking at Yale School of Art. When I Get That Mood Indigo at M+B is her debut solo exhibition. The artist has also exhibited in group shows at Lyles & King (New York); Blum & Poe (Los Angeles); and Gallery Gertude (San Francisco, CA). Chakrabarti was awarded a Fountainhead Residency in 2020. Her works have been written about in The New York Times, Artsy, Juxtapoz, and Arte Fuse. Bhasha Chakrabarti lives and works in New Haven, CT.


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