ART IN REVIEW; Praneet Soi and Kriti Arora

By Holland Cotter | New York Times

The dozens of unframed pocket-size paintings by Praneet Soi, an Indian artist living in the United States, have a distinctive shape: they are executed in gouache and oils on flattened cigarette packs.

The format suggests art done on the fly, and, in fact, many of the paintings are diaristic visual accounts of the artist's travels, often by motorbike, in India and elsewhere. But each piece is fastidiously wrought in a crisp, atmospheric style that blends the influence of Rajput miniatures, Western illustration (Mr. Soi has worked in advertising) and Indian popular art.

A series of paintings of Calcutta -- ''beautiful and polluted,'' as the artist notes in his exhibition captions -- is a study in silver and black of ships and grinding wheels. New York looks positively visionary, with platinum clouds billowing over factories and a decorative band of green parrots floating above the lower Manhattan skyline. In three paintings inspired by the Hindu pilgrimage sites, colorful icons -- as fantastic as the Western fantasy tales Mr. Soi loved as a child -- stand out against blue sea and sky.

30 April 1999