» Archive for 21 March 2009
Today marks the inauguration of the “China-DPRK Friendship Year,” which also coincides with the 60th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations. Surely this will be the DPRK’s only chance at a “friendship year,” so, to mark the beginning of what will be a long, nauseating year in public relations coverage, I examine the aesthetic features of some DPRK photography sanctioned by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA); these have all been released on Xinhua.com, China’s media equivalent. Stark, almost Brutalist qualities mark these photos, recalling the regime that created them.
Click on each photo for related Xinhua article.
Both nations have a history of enforcing civic and aesthetic harmony. Wen Jiabao stands here with his DPRK counterpart, Kim Yong Il. What a patriotic name Mr. Kim has! There is something very “progressive” about this photo, note that instead of posing with a traditional painting as backdrop, we are treated to red and yellow color combination (Chinese flag? Olympic opening ceremony 西红柿炒鸡蛋 anyone?).
Ah… that’s more like it. You can’t help but notice the turbulent ocean waves depicted in this classical backdrop, and the matching key-lime, flowered carpet, Kim sits so perfectly in-between those blossoms, with his feet just dusting the petals of each. In DPRK history, the stones that are breaking those waves surely have some courageous, patriotic symbolism. Note to woman in turquoise: there’s only one person who should be standing out in this photo (nice beige jumper). (more…)
Huang Liang until April 19 @ Platform China project space
“Look Deeper” until May 17 @ Platform China
In Platform China’s project space, Huang Liang small solo show offers a morbid encounter with illness. Misdiagnosed with cancer in his early adulthood, cool shades of clinical gray seem to still haunt his memory. Although Huang Liang’s tactile painting style of oil on canvas is nothing new, or unfamiliar from academic artists, Huang shows talent with paints.
Small, unframed and unmounted canvases of hospital scenes are arranged across the wall like snapshots, juxtaposed with enormous canvases depicting X-rays.
Scala, 384 pages, Feb 2009
Miriam Clifford, Cathy Giangrande and Antony White, all with backgrounds in art history and archeology, have reportedly spent four years combing through China’s hundreds of museums in a search for the most appealing. The result is this in-depth guide to China’s museums that opens up new territories for English-speaking audiences, presumably Western travelers, but for that special, more adventuresome set interested in witnessing China’s cultural growth from a multifaceted perspective. “China: Museums” includes major players, such as the Forbidden City, as well as Chinese equivalents of what could be called “Roadside museums.” Imagine the Squished Penny Museum of Washington DC, translate that into the Beijing Tap Water Museum for an idea of the scale of the many museums referenced here; but then again, our authors have carefully weeded through the deep waters of China’s bowuguan (“museum,” a term that could also be literally broken down to mean an “establishment of ample objects”) to bring us the very best, most socially relevant and worthy selection of China’s ancient memorials, monuments and culturally revealing sites. They prove that lurking behind the Chinglish placards of hundreds of museums across China, there is much to be learned.
With site culled through our authors’ trained, and scrutinizing eyes, “China Museums” is not only a portrait of a nation’s burgeoning museum culture, but a sketchy outline of the earnest efforts of China’s curators or enthusiasts, and a semblance of an infrastructure where we might have assumed there was none. Of course, many Western readers cannot help but judge on appearances when confronted with the widespread curatorial practices Xerox copies glued to walls, or shabby facades and dust-laden velvet curtains, even the sci-fi inspired architecture of modern China can be a turn off. (more…)
until April 6 @ Star Gallery
In a drastic departure from her works on canvas, Yang Fan has produced a carpet of colorful poof-balls that she culled from the storerooms of clothing and toy factories in her native Guangdong. Yang Fan is formerly known for her series of paintings of young women in fashion plate style, the series, ever popular with Asian collectors, did not resonate with Western audiences.
When she began working on the project last year, she mentioned that the idea came to her while visiting clothing factories in China’s south. In what might have evolved from more “crafty” origins, this work culminates in her scouring of southern factories for unwanted bits and bobs, a new representation of the stories behind the cast-offs, and timely with the massive layoffs in the south.
An essay accompanying the catalogue is presented below. I translated it, but also enjoyed it for some valuable insights on her early works.
Recently, while reviewing Wang Gongxin’s installation piece at the Arrow Factory, I thought I would publish here all the additional thoughts that wouldn’t fit into the print version (but please keep an eye out for April’s ArtForum). The Arrow Factory is a small storefront space located in the “arrow” hutong near the Confucius Temple at Guozijian, it was founded by the artists Raina Ho, Wang Wei, Weng Wei and curator / critic Pauline J. Yao.
According to Pauline in a recent phone interview, they were looking to create a counter-dialogue to “art with a capital ‘A’” and to “engage in a different way with audiences”.
The Arrow Factory’s central location indeed is a deviation from the norm. Beijing’s exhibition spaces and galleries are mostly clustered far from the city center and often in factory ruins, they run from enormous to mind-bogglingly huge in size. The distance we travel to see them can put the average viewer at a disadvantage, and perhaps endows the act of viewing art with an unnecessary pretension or the element of a “castle on the hill”. Likewise, the enormity of these spaces presents the inevitable problem of filling them. Art, in tandem to the growing size of these colossal spaces, has also become monumental in size, scope, and this has become an incorrect signifier of implied importance. Thus, the mission of the Arrow Factory is apropos to our times. (more…)