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Abir Karmakar | Uncanny Space

Written by Donald Kuspit 


Since 2007 Abir Karmakar has been painting pictures of his bedroom, and sometimes also the small bathroom adjoining it, both probably in the apartment in which he lives. In the first of the thirteen works that constitute the provocative series he calls In The Old Fashioned Way, 2007 he stands in his bedroom, completely naked, and facing away from us, so that his buttocks are in our face, as though inviting us to copulate with him. This voyeuristic, perversely confrontational work sets the tone of the entire series: again and again we see Karmakar posing and prancing in front of us, sometimes threatening to break through the picture plane and fall in our laps, sometimes narcissistically absorbed in his beautiful body, lost in self-appreciation in the privacy of his bedroom, the inner sanctum which ironically becomes his showcase. Crucially, his penis is invisible, usually tucked away between his legs, sometimes hidden behind a bit of cloth, unsuccessfully suggesting his modesty. He’s as much a woman as a man, he seems to be suggesting, but it doesn’t really matter which he is, because both a woman and a man can be mounted from behind—penetrated “the old fashioned way,” as the title of the series implies, the man in his anus, the woman in her vagina and anus.