Air-India’s Maharaja: Advertising Gone Rogue
September 9, 2022–February 12, 2023
119 W. 23rd Street New York, NY 10011
“Rogue’s Gallery,” published by Air-India in 1977, was a catalog showcasing the airline’s most iconic travel posters produced from 1946 to 1972. The star of these posters was Air-India’s beloved mascot, the Maharaja, alias “the Rogue.” Conceived in 1946 by Bobby Kooka and illustrated by Umesh Rao, the Maharaja was initially designed for an inflight memo pad. Characterized by his oversized mustache, striped turban, corpulent belly, and aquiline nose, the mascot would go on to become the face of the airline and propel the company to the forefront of advertising genius in the mid-20th century.
Air-India established an in-house art studio and also commissioned international artists to depict the Maharaja in all his antics. One of the world’s least-inhibited travelers, the Maharaja developed a reputation for his daring and panache as he adopted different personas in every destination—a snake charmer in India, a monk in Rome, a lover boy in Paris, and even a playboy bunny in New York. The Maharaja, however, didn’t get away without his fair-share of controversy—Air-India was repeatedly asked by prominent international figures to rescind advertisements they found to be shocking or insulting.
Despite the complaints of ill-humored politicians, the Maharaja and his cutting-edge design earned the company a myriad of advertising awards and a loyal legion of fans. While the Maharaja remains Air-India’s mascot to this day, he is most fondly remembered throughout the world for his role in India’s golden age of advertising.
Queer Maximalism x Machine Dazzle
Through Feb 19, 2023
Museum of Arts & Design
2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019
Queer Maximalism x Machine Dazzle is the first solo exhibition dedicated to the genre-defying artist Matthew Flower (US, b. 1972), better known as Machine Dazzle. A provocateur commanding an expanding repertoire of stagecraft, design, performance, and music, Machine Dazzle is a virtuoso practitioner of queer maximalism’s aesthetic language of liberation.
The exhibition brings together nearly 100 of the artist’s creations for stage, spectacles, and street theater, alongside a variety of environments, ephemera, material samples, photography, and video. Together they chronicle the metamorphosis of Flower, a closeted suburban kid from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, into “Machine Dazzle,” the queer experimental theater genius.
On view will be both Machine Dazzle’s famous collaborations with drag and performance luminaries such as the Dazzle Dancers and Mx Justin Vivian Bond, among others, as well as the artist’s recent emergence from behind the scenes to center stage of his own artistic life. Installed on two floors of the Museum, the multimedia exhibition also includes the first public installation of more than two dozen tour-de-force costumes created by the artist for himself and his long-time collaborator, Taylor Mac, to wear in the queer performance art concert production, Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (2016), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
Excessive in scale, color, surface, texture, and movement, Machine Dazzle’s living sculptures constantly transform as the designer combines the familiar embellishments of drag and burlesque, such as sequins, glitter, and feathers, beads, with found fantastical and found objects, such as ping pong balls, hoop skirts, slinkies, soup cans, and more, to build and deepen the work’s narrative intent. The result is an explosive “queer maximalism” aesthetic that joyfully counters the prejudices of high culture regarding extravagance and the overly decorated and embraces these associations as queer for affirming hybridity over purity, rejecting cultural hierarchies, and valuing different kinds of bodies.
Please be aware that some of the works on view contain adult sexual content.