Mequitta Ahuja at Thierry Goldberg Gallery

'In Back Garden: Seated Right,' 2013. (Courtesy the artist and Thierry Goldberg)

‘In Back Garden: Seated Right,’ 2013. (Courtesy the artist and Thierry Goldberg)

Mequitta Ahuja sits on a small green blanket printed with lush, red flowers. The world behind her is assembled from sheets of vellum graph paper glued together with visible seams and overlaps and with their grids roughly but not exactly in line. She’s naked and looking toward the viewer, but she keeps her legs curled up and her back turned. Her outlines are clear, drawn in dark black with a halo of tentative pencil marks, and doubly emphasized where a single curving line traces the depression of her spine, but she isn’t fully colored in: The fingers of her left hand are the white and yellow of the backing. This is In Back Garden: Green Carpet, acrylic, enamel, watercolor and waxy chalk on vellum, one of nine large paintings in which Ms. Ahuja draws on the techniques and materials at hand—herself as subject, history and art history as background, miscellaneous papers as surface, and for texture, papier-mâché crinkles, Indian textile stamps and patterns scraped directly into the paint like henna. Despite her ambivalence, she works with the confidently flexible precision of a line cook.

In Rhyme Sequence: Wiggle Waggle, oil and acrylic painted onto paper mounted on canvas, the artist, still nude, is in profile, holding a dramatic but archetypically static pose borrowed from some illustrated epic. She stands against a forest of blue earth, blackish-purple grass, pale gray stones and brachial brown trees shooting up toward a smoky sky. Around two wrists and an ankle, she wears golden rings, but her left foot disappears into the cleft of a flat, tan rock marked with several overlapping patterns in shades of red. The perspective, as in Klimt’s Birch Forest, is slightly tipped up and flattened—if the world is a picture, it implies, then the picture must also be a world. But with its multiple centers and deceptively casual organization, Ms. Ahuja’s is a warmer harmony. (Through Dec. 22) 

Mequitta Ahuja at Thierry Goldberg Gallery