In the work of American artist, Rajkamal Kahlon, we witness an autopsy, a dissection of the visual legacies of empire. The body -injured and transformed -is a reoccurring motif throughout Kahlon’s work. Subject to political and intimate forms of violence, the body also becomes a space for transformation and resistance. Her work remakes the boundaries of political experience into an emotional arena, ranging between anger, grief, revenge and humor.
Kahlon’s interdisciplinary practice questions the formal and conceptual limits of painting, photography and sculpture. Drawing on history, archives and literature, her research undergoes a process of creative transformation resulting in sensual, formally rigorous work that is about reclamation and the transcendence of history. By using her own hand in redrawing and repainting the bodies of photographed native subjects, Kahlon allows for the rehabilitation of those bodies, histories and cultures that have been erased, distorted and maligned. Kahlon’s diverse sources include classical western painting, 19th C Illustrated newspapers and history books, contemporary U.S. military autopsy reports, the history of science and medicine, colonial era photography, anthropological portraiture and pop culture.
Kahlon is a past participant of the Whitney Independent Study Program and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She received her MFA in Painting and Drawing from The California College of Art. Kahlon's work has been exhibited widely in museums, foundations and biennials in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia including the 2012 Taipei Biennial, Meeting Points 7, MHKA, HKW, MUAC Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Edith Russ Haus Für Medienkunst, 21er Haus, Museum of Modern Art Warsaw, NGBK, Queens Museum, Bronx Museum, Artists' Space, Apex Art and e-flux.
Kahlon is the recipient of numerous grants and awards from both U.S. and German foundations including a Joan Mitchell Painting and Sculpture Award, a Pollock Krasner Grant, the Stiftung Kunstfonds Artist Grant, a Goethe Institute Artist Fellowship and a Lambent Artist Award. In 2012 Kahlon partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, to create a pilot experimental artist residency, Did You Kiss the Dead Body?: Visualizing Absence in the Archive of War. In 2016 she was the SWICH Artist in Residence at the Welt Museum in Vienna and the Melon Visiting Artist at the Newhouse Center for Humanities at Wellesley College. She is the recipient of a 2017 Krull Foundation grant.