Missives, Aharoni's first solo museum exhibition, was inspired by a trove of love letters written by his mother in the 1950s as an adolescent girl in Israel. The work explores universal notions of desire, ritual and courtship, as well as the experience of retroactive memory.
The show opened the Fall Exhibition season at the Victoria and Albert Museum (also known as the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum) in Mumbai, and was on view from September 8 to November 30, 2013.
All of the works are collages: the letters (or fragments of their text) are combined with drawings and photographs, embroidered onto vintage phulkaris or floated above installations of vintage snapshots and letters that the artist collected in India. They fashion a narrative cycle encompassing history, symbolism and imagination.
Enlarged and printed on fragile Japanese paper, the letters are transformed into precious objects/artifacts, amplifying their earnest, teenage yearnings. Crumpling the letters preserves his mother’s privacy , and reveals only random threads of phrases–creating a tactile yet ephemeral metaphor for concealed feelings. The crumpled letters, combined with vintage photographs from India that document random yet specific moments in the lives of others, connect his mother’s sentiments to a universal and elusive landscape of memories.
Snippets of the letters are integrated into drawings of symbols, of architecture and of daily life, which the artist has observed during his travels throughout India over the past decade. The drawings, decontextualized from their original setting, evoke a visual vernacular that is both personal and communal. Printed on handmade Japanese paper in the collages and embroidered on the phulkaris (shawls from Punjab which are often given to a bride at the time of her marriage), the imagery has the potential to signify emotions: anticipation, love, memory, home, spirituality and the passage of time – all of which eluded his mother and the object of her desire. Integrating these embroidered drawings with the phulkaris’ precise geometric patterns creates a visual language that traverses time, geography and cultures, which ultimately transcends Aharoni’s own family history.