Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India's Comics

Ahmanson Building, Level 4
October 17, 2009–February 7, 2010

This exhibition examines the legacy of India’s divine heroes and heroines in contemporary South Asian culture through the comic book genre. Indian superheroes and their archenemies are visualized from ancient archetypes that have long been depicted in traditional painting and sculpture, and are deeply ingrained in India’s historical imagination. In the twenty-first century new incarnations of ancient Indian gods and goddesses are made manifest as modern superheroes brought to Earth to vanquish the evil forces. Demons take the form of modern villains, and raise havoc in today’s troubled times. Today comic book production takes place in a global cultural context and within a multimedia framework that combines traditional hand-drawn illustrations with computer design and animation technology. These issues are explored through a selection of vintage Indian and American comics, and contemporary pencil-and-ink-drawn character explorations by Indian artists from the Liquid Comics series Ramayan and Devi. To illustrate the continuity of the heroic narrative tradition in Indian art, a selection from LACMA’s historical collection of Indian paintings will also be on view. These include folios from Mughal illustrated manuscripts, paintings and drawings from the northern Indian princely states, and story-telling paintings from central India.

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Curators: Julie Romain, Tushara Bindu Gude.

This exhibition was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and made possible by the Southern Asian Art Council.

Additional support was provided by Chitra and Sudesh Arora, Catherine Benkaim and Barbara Timmer, Paula Fouce, Ruth Hayward, Ph.D., and Robert W. Hayward, M.D., Dr. and Mrs. Allen Jayne, Kris Kasselman and Bob Emmett, Ms. Punita Khanna and Mr. John Yates, Donna and Jess Morton, Walter and Nesta Spink, and Ashok and Kay Talwar.

Hanuman Lands with the Medicinal Herbs (verso), Scenes from the Story of the Burning of Lanka, Folio from a Ramayana (Adventures of Rama) (detail), India, Maharashtra, Paithan, South Asia, circa 1850, watercolor, opaque watercolor on paper, 16 5/8 x 11 in., gift of Paul F. Walter.

Saumin Patel (India, b. 1979), "Devi Vanquishes Bala," Devi, 2006, pencil and ink on art board, 17 x 11 in., Liquid Comics, Bangalore, India. © 2008 Liquid Comics. All rights reserved.