Jitish Kallat’s interdisciplinary practice spans painting, sculpture, video and photography. A graduate of the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai, Kallat has established himself as one of the leading contemporary artists practicing in India today. Living and working in the pluralistic urban environment of Mumbai, Kallat draws upon the visual cultures of the city to represent multiplicity in the daily existence ofMumbaikars. His vivid figurative paintings serve as both a celebration of the city as well as a political critique of socioeconomic divides across the nation. Kallat’s oeuvre is vast in its exploration of both processes and themes; his paintings can range from a close up and magnification of a single object or person to larger and chaotic urbanscapes.
“The paintings are all foreground, with a certain matte-ness that is both a surface effect and an aspect of the mediated condition of the material (newspaper photographs, images on the internet) that he has been prone to use. The urchins, street waifs, child labourers, crowds, and urban flotsam that his iconographic repertory has been consistently partial to, are treated in a manner suggestive of a blown-up photographic negative or pixelized image with the eye needing to adjust itself to a kind of reversed figure/ground relationship […] The riddling aspect is underscored not only by the cryptic and often ironic titles (accompanied by the artist’s name and the copyright symbol) stencilled on the picture surface but also globalized demotic of the ‘highways of communication’ - the signage glut of the computer screen - that festoons, punctuates, interrupts the interface of the 'real' and the 'virtual' that is 'Kallat's window on the world'.” (D. Ananth, ‘Scare Quotes: Jitish Kallat's 'AgitPop’’, Jitish Kallat Rickshawpolis, New Delhi, 2005, p. 4)
Kallat exposes the idiosyncrasies of mechanical reproduction by magnifying and revealing the grainy resolution and cropped composition of news clippings and internet printouts. Following the aesthetic sensibilities of Pop Art, he collapses the picture plane, giving his viewer no refuge from his images of street waifs. His subaltern subject matter flickers between the genial imagery of the everyday billboard and the violence of the agit-prop posters as it confronts its audience.
Indemnity Bond commemorates a cycle rickshaw driver and puller, who are marginalised but permanent fixtures in the city. The rickshaw puller on the right who is depicted without a vehicle looks at his counterpart despondently; having a vehicle to ride/pull is better than not having one at all. In legal terms, indemnity bonds are a type of financial insurance or guarantee. For the laborers in this painting, their vehicles are a metaphorical indemnity bond, as they are financially protected if they have a means for survival. This diptych was painted a year before Kallat created his series Rickshawpolis. The motorized rickshaw, alluded to in the title of the work, is a stalwart symbol of post-Independence India that in effect has been rendered an old "dinosaur" struggling for survival against the newer sleeker vehicles that compete and threaten its obsolescence. Kallat's portraits of the city and its inhabitants thus address universal themes of survival and mortality. By portraying the physical and psychological burdens forced on city dwellers by the tumultuous, bustling metropolis, he aims to champion their resilience.