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“Puja and Piety” and Lewis deSoto
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California
Recommendation by Jody Zellen

Lewis deSoto, "Paranirvana (Self Portrait), 2015, painted vinyl infused cloth, electric air fan, dimensions variable. Courtesy of Chandra Cerrito Contemporary

Continuing through July 31, 2016

"Puja and Piety" is a sprawling exhibition featuring Hindu, Jain and Buddhist Art from the Indian Subcontinent. The approximately 160 works are drawn from the Museum's vast collection and span 2,000 years. In the courtyard area, before the entrance to "Puja and Piety," visitors will encounter a new work by Lewis deSoto commissioned for the museum to coincide with "Puja and Piety." DeSoto's remarkable sculpture is part of his ongoing "Paranirvana (Self-Portrait)" series of oversized inflatable figures, resting calmly on their side, based on the 12th-century Buddha at Gal Vihara in Sri Lanka. "Paranirvana (Self-Portrait)" is a meditation on life and death that was also inspired by his father's passing.

Thinking about the questions: What happens after you die? What is that experience like? The Buddhist event of paranirvana, nirvana-after-death, lies at the conceptual center of these sculptures. Being inflatable, the works are large but light. DeSoto personalizes them by superimposing his features onto the Buddha's face. The sculpture in the museum is re-inflated each morning and deflated each night, an allusion to the idea that the sculpture inhales and exhales its spiritual breath. A soft hum emanates from the form, furthering the metaphor that the work is alive. These engaging sculptures are simultaneously monumental and ethereal, and constitute a complex and seductive dialogue between the formal qualities of the sculpture, and the very personal matter of life and death.

Published Courtesy of ArtSceneCal ©2016

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