What Is a Trade?
Donald Fels and Signboard Painters of South India
- PUBLISHED: May 2008
- SUBJECT LISTING: Art History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 80 Pages, 8 x 10 in, 42 color illus.
- ISBN: 9780924335266
What Is a Trade? Donald Fels and Signboard Painters of South India presents sixteen large-scale paintings that explore trade and globalization in India. Fels' conceptual starting point for this exhibition was Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama's 1498 voyage to Malabar, India, in search of a direct sea route for the spice trade. What is a Trade? explores the historic and modern-day legacy of that expedition more than 500 years later.
In 2004 and 2005, Fels traveled to Kerala (formerly Malabar), India, as a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar, to work with local commercial signboard painters on a body of work that examines globalization in India and traces its roots to Vasco's voyage. Most of the signboard painters had formerly worked as billboard painters -- until recently, all billboards in India were hand-painted, but cheaper and more efficient inkjet printers are making the painters obsolete. In light of this trend, Fels and his collaborators created work in the style of traditional hand-painted billboards and Bollywood advertising. The bright colors and strong graphic narratives make visually arresting statements about the historic and contemporary effects of trade and globalization.
Authors & Contributors
Greg Bell is curator and collection coordinator, 4Culture; Samuel K. Parker is associate professor, Interdisciplinary arts and sciences, University of Washington, Tacoma.
Director's Foreword and Acknowledgments / Stephanie A. Stebich, Tacoma Art Museum
The Life of Don / Greg Bell, Curator and Collection Coordinator, 4Culture
Collaborations: A Northwest Artist among South Indian Signboard Painters / Samuel K. Parker, University of Washington, Tacoma
Donald Fels and Signboard Painters of South India / Commentary by Donald Fels
Re-Visioning the Art of Collaboration: Questions for Donald Fels / Rock Hushka, Tacoma Art Museum
Works in the Exhibition
Tacoma Art Museum Board of Trustees 2007-2008
Tacoma Art Museum Staff