» Archive for the 'exhibitions' Category
[”Bird and Flower Painting for the Proletariat,” Paintings and Installation, TOP Studios, 2010]
[”Bird and Flower Painting for the Proletariat,” Paintings and Installation, TOP Studios, 2010]
Accompanying his exhibition in 2012, artist Shi Qing published a few statements regarding his thoughts on his “Bird and Flower Painting for the Proletariat.” The following has been translated from Shi Qing’s blog.
Everything here is surplus, produced in the process of making other things, from other “undertakings”, these are not derivative materials, the conceptual relationship with the original artwork is severed. A fork in the road, where the branches are larger, thicker than the trunk.
Once alienated from relations of production (Produktionsverhältnisse), the production scale of contemporary art is a capitalist conspiracy: the creation chain linking concept to production and finally to interpretation is a type of manufacturing system, and art works are but a final product; we shouldn’t criticize the production of materials that can be traded, but art’s relations of production in institutionalized academia. The strategy of using surplus materials is intended to avoid this trap.
One should oppose the institutionalization of artists, which is the beginning of self-institutionalization, concepts have already become the most important tool in this kind of self-institutionalization. It acts as the elite political media, while in fact, is no different from the mass media, these two are parallel. Contemporary art production finally devolves into this type of political relationship: you are consumed by your own creation, which has become a kind of new system that controls you.
The form copies modernist aesthetics, and is a hand-made imitation of machine processes, ideas that imitate geometry. Nothing is more suitable for imitating minimalism because a smooth abstract surface will always be plagued by the traces of labor, I call this “breaking with obsessive-compulsive disorder.”
How do we identify the proletariat in China? Temporarily ignoring previous claims on the term, here it refers specifically to empty-handed people within the political system. Everywhere there are people in the service of temporary organizations and temporary aesthetics, they are unsatisfied, but have no other method.
Bird and Flower paintings, perfunctorily speaking, are the “superfluous emotions” of the literati class. Whether they are relishing their moods, or expressing their aspirations, it is clear that these ruminations are mere side dishes to a principal ideology, but as for the proletariat? However, learning art is a cautious undertaking, like a small interest group, or university for the elderly.
（上述说法排序不分前后; The above statements are in no particular order of importance)
Little Movements [from January 2012 Artforum]
OCT CONTEMPORARY ART TERMINAL OF THE HE XIANGNING ART MUSEUM
“Little Movements: Self-Practice in Contemporary Art” is an ongoing project initiated by curator and critic Carol Yinghua Lu and her husband, curator and artist Liu Ding. Because the endeavor encompasses so many ideas simultaneously and has appeared in many incarnations, ranging from artworks to publications to exhibitions, its concept is perhaps best approached in terms of what it is not. The “Little Movements” of the title are not political movements, nor are they mini art movements. The practices referred to are not linked by a common ideology, and the curators don’t attempt to draw parallels between them. “Little Movements” is a collection of art practices whose autonomy is itself grounds for inclusion.
Some of the participants are engaged in work that speaks to the general public, such as the e-flux project unitednationsplaza, but others address very specific contexts. The “Zhuhai Meeting” organized by Wang Guangyi and Shu Qun in 1986 exemplifies this: Laying the groundwork for the 1989 “China/Avant-Garde” exhibition, this gathering brought together avant-garde groups across China to discuss their nascent practices for the first time. Represented here by a detailed chart of the participants and a 1986 newspaper report displayed like a relic in a glass case, it provides a necessary counterpoint to the fetishization and mythologizing of the birth of the Chinese avant-garde.
As an extension of Liu’s series of “Conversations,” 2010–, in which private discussions with artists, curators, and critics were recorded and then exhibited in the form of written, photographic, and sound documentation, the contemporary participants in “Little Movements” are featured in video-recorded roundtable discussions, one for each group, with the two curators, assistant curator Su Wei, and several others. In this exhibition, these recorded conversations were presented along with photographs and other documents. These discussions, recording the curators’ attempt to capture what they call a “spirit of self-practice” in art today, explore how each group in “Little Movements” maintains a sustained sense of self-questioning and reflexivity that allows it to exist in a self-sufficient enclave.
The curators seem concerned primarily with how new value systems can be established independently of existing power structures and, ultimately, how self-reflexive practice can engender new creative directions. Yet working within existing power structures wouldn’t disqualify these varied art practitioners from being seen as autonomous or critical. And though it includes artists’ groups ranging from Beijing’s HomeShop to Copenhagen Free University, the exhibition does not purport to be an all-encompassing examination of collectives today. In fact, Lu and Liu reject the notion of linear history altogether, as well as any pretense of objective methodological investigation; as the curators informally stated, the artists involved here are simply some of those they have come in contact with through their travels. But such a naked subjectivity, as it gains momentum and inevitably snowballs toward self-institutionalization, seems to come with its own trappings of power. How will “Little Movements” maintain the continuous critical self-inquiry and reflexivity that it esteems?
Although a museum show on the Chinese mainland (as opposed to Hong Kong) necessarily eschews overt politics, the curators seem to have subversive goals, searching for alternatives to existing art-world power structures or historical narratives, yet they are awkwardly aware of the pitfalls of establishing anything in its place. “The Anxiety of Self-Definition,” one of the four broad categories of “Little Movements,” encapsulates the ambiguity surrounding the exhibition itself, a work in progress, one that resists classification. (The other categories are “Individual Systems,” “Away from the Crowds: Unexpected Encounters,” and “What Is Knowledge.”) The exhibition at OCT was more like a tool kit than organized research, charting a loose theoretical framework that informs art practice, but is defined only through outside references. This collection of movements seems poised to legitimize certain practices, or to give way to something else entirely.
中国美术馆｜NATIONAL ART MUSEUM OF CHINA (2011.08.21–2011.09.07)
(Chinese version is posted on artforum.com.cn, 中文版 here）
[马秋莎 Ma Qiusha，Ashes to Ashes，2011，single channel video，3′15″]
The Taikang Collection’s vision for a corporate art collection in China occupied the entire third floor at China’s national art gallery (NAMOC) for two weeks late this summer. Collection shows don’t always provide much to speak of in a critical sense, but the much talked about and rigorous programming at Taikang Space in Caochangdi has been generous in facilitating discussion on emerging artists and experimental practices, so the show was widely anticipated by art professionals.No small number of touchstone works in modern/contemporary art history are currently entrusted to the Taikang collection, and the selection of works displayed here dropped all the most recognizable names of the contemporary market, while nodding to the art historical key points that have come to embody the general narrative on China’s evolving avantgarde. But the show pushes the beginning of its story into the mid-1960s, or earlier, predating the conventional citing of 1978 as the “birth” of Chinese contemporary art.
Xiao Lu’s twin phonebooth installation, Dialogue 《对话》, scene of the notoriously over-cited gunshot performance from the 1989 China Avantgarde exhibition significantly makes a return to the scene of the crime. The work is now unequivocally attributed to Xiao Lu alone, her co-conspirator Tang Song left off the roster, makes for an interesting bit of historical revisionism twenty years after the fact. It might have caused most discomfort for museum director Fan Di’an, who was rumored to have nervously sidestepped the piece at the opening, on display in the NAMOC again Dialogue was an underwhelming and static reincarnation. This art world “incident,” although important, has received so much exposure via media and critics that it has tragically overshadowed other works that from the same historical exhibiton. Nearby, that surrealistic canvas that has become the visual manifestation of the enlightenment of the mid-eighties, The Enlightenment of Adam and Eve 《在新时代——亚当夏娃的启示》(1985), by Meng Luding and Zhang Qun, hangs behind a glass frame. It is in good company, with works by Chen Yifei and Wu Guanzhong.
[吴印咸 Wu Yinxian, Building Enterprises Under Hard Conditions《艰苦创业》, 1942, B&W photo]
Rarely included amongst “contemporary” narratives are two icons from the xinzhongguo meishu, or Maoist, era: the first is Jin Shangyi’s Full Length Portrait of Chairman Mao 《毛主席全身像》 (1966), its celebrity status matched only by the 1942 print from Yan’an documentarian and photography master Wu Yinxian. Wu’s Building Enterprises Under Hard Conditions《艰苦创业》 is arguably the most recognizable image of Mao from the Yan’an years, and was significantly captured during the Talks on Literature and the Arts. Despite what feels like a vast psychological barrier between works from the 1960s and today, it subliminally suggests that the talks are still important to art production today. The reiterative display of Mao’s portrait in this broader context made for a curious, if not explicitly self-reflexive exercise in historical reflection. There is a feeling that the exhibition has created a peculiar historical space by making a fold in history from the cultural revolution to the contemporary, many issues were lost in the fold, forgotten, but we seem to be standing where the two ends meet.
While it was disappointing not to see more of the collection’s early works on display, or artworks outside familiar market-driven narratives, the show does provide an important opportunity for such a collection to interact with the general public. Not only does it introducing to the general public a sense of corporate cultural responsibility, its unique success is in providing non-art saavy, average citizens with the possibility of seeing contemporary art as the equivalent to Wu Yinxian’s portrait, or Jiang Zhaohe’s From Now, The Chinese People Have Stood Up 《中国人民从此站起来了》 (1949).Conservatives are likely to dismiss “contemporary art” because it exists in uncharted territories and outside the “approved canon,” but here, they are quietly introduced to some of the most avantgarde trends in the art world, direct from distant Heiqiao artist studios on Beijing’s peripheries well outside the 5th ring road. Doubtless, few casual visitors will critically examine whether or not the juxtaposition of red classics with contemporary art implies the latter are “good” or meaningful works within the “new” tradition of Chinese art (after 1949), but what other occasion might we have reason for Chen Yifei’s Eulogy of the Yellow River《黄河颂》 (1972) displayed alongside Zhao Zhao’s 5113 rat droppings?
On the last Sunday of its opening, most visitors did not linger in the first room, “Revolution and Enlightenment,” where the benchmarks of history are proudly displayed (although they are perhaps familiar only to “specialist” visitors); nor did visitors linger in the second room, “Pluralistic Patterns,” where calling cards from almost all the “super star” artists are dropped such as Wang Guangyi, Cai Guo-qiang or Huang Yongping. Although, in this room the “most photogenic artwork award” goes to Hong Hao and Yan Lei’s conceptual work Taikang Project 《泰康计划》 (2006). Here children were posed, and adults postured themselves before the enormous recreation of Van Gogh’s Ward in the Hospital in Arles (1889), (into which Hong Hao and Yan Lei inserted their own visages a la Van Gogh self-portraits), visitors carefully framed their snapshots to exclude the life insurance documents that occupy the right half of the enormous baroque frame. It looked like a “masterpiece,” and here it was in the museum, so it proved itself worthy of photographing one’s self infront of it––is this a shanzhai version of the Western art historical canon? Perhaps the irony of this display, the naïve appropriation of Western works by casual audiences, was anticipated by they artists when they first exhibited the work in the small Taikang Gallery in 2006.
[ 肖鲁 Xiao Lu,《对话》Dialogue, 1989, 2011 installation at NAMOC ]
This last room “Extended Vision” is filled with a selection of artists from Taikang’s 2010 to 2011 “51m2” young artist series, and represents the close of the Taikang story. Perhaps it was the mundane nature of digital video, or the habitualized captivation by flickering screens, but in this last room viewers were enthralled by two works. First was Liu Chuang’s Untitled (Dancing Partner)《无题（舞伴）》 (2011), a video of two cars traveling in perfect company, side-by-side on Beijing’s ring roads, never speeding, never slowing, but dictating the flow of traffic around them through this simple gesture of solidarity. The next was Ma Qiusha’s large screen projection of Ashes to Ashes《黎明是黄昏的灰烬》 (2011), although hers is a provocative treatment of this celebrated state iconology, viewers lingered comfortably before the floor to ceiling screen. Adults were rapt, and children danced, projecting themselves as shadows onto the familiar streets and the bullhorn-laden lampposts surrounding the square. Rendered in this “contemporary mode,” and with a distinct criticality, the political heart of contemporary China still has the power to mesmerize, even if the context has completely changed.
In “I Am Your Night,” Zhao Yao’s latest exhibition, a series of childishly bright and geometric paintings ironically titled “A Painting of Thought” (all works 2011) mock the profundity of a rising undercurrent of young canvas-favoring Conceptual artists who work in Beijing today. Indeed, many of these artists have shown at the same gallery that Zhao now fills with dripping wire and spiked wood constructions, televisions that come alive at the sound of a tongue clicking, and his so-called “thoughtful” paintings, copied directly from optical teasers and perception puzzles onto tartan cloth. His ugly aesthetic and holistic approach to the gallery represent an almost magical attempt to puncture the sanctity of the exhibition space and demystify the painting process.He focuses his subversive energies on challenging the validity of painting and confounding viewer expectations. The exhibition envelops visitors like a constructed “situation” in the vein of Guy Debord: Here, amid the tangle of screaming sculptures, critical self-awareness is encapsulated by text spelling out the exclamation AAAH, a single repeated Chinese character that crisscrosses the floor in long diagonals.Zhao believes in the importance of the artist’s hand, having executed all the works himself, although his coarse technical choices demonstrate a rejection of fine handiwork or painterly processes and their correspondingly complex ideologies. But despite the artist’s attempts to disembowel pretenses, as well as the arbitrary impression made by his assemblage, each work is detailed and precise. As can be seen here, Zhao has slunk into a recognizable style, which has caused more established artists to see his art, as his career ascends, as prestidigitation rather than as a true break with the idea of a personal aesthetic.Originally posted at Artforum.com, 中文请按右边的“中文”。
On March 20, the Minsheng Art Museum in Shanghai threw open its doors on Liu Wei’s solo show, “Trilogy” 《三部曲：刘韡个展》. Who said there were no local art museums? Although I couldn’t make it for the show, and I can’t offer any critical analysis or interesting commentary, I decided, considering the popularity of previous posts on his works, to post the press images that arrived in my inbox. Here’s a link to a (very poorly translated) English press release. Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!
The above installation, “Merely a Mistake” 《仅仅是个错误》gets the gold star prize from me, find the rest of the images after the jump. (more…)
In June last year, Long March mounted a solo exhibition for MadeIn Co., integral to which was a bit of media trickery. Its been a long time, but I thought it worth to write about here. The show was an interesting ruse best appreciated from within the local art machine.
The press release went out to press folk and mailing lists around the world, its photograph included what looked like a mud statue of Neanderthals mimicking the soviet realist frieze statues that sit outside the Mao mausoleum. It was photographed in a generic art space, with white, lofty ceilings. The image leads you to believe that there will be similarly shocking works, making similarly straightforward statements, on display. (Press release below)
When you walk into the hall, however, instead of epic sculptures, large photographic print images line the wall. The sculpture that expected, is missing, save of its “reproduced” image on the wall.
There are roughly three groups of images, the first look like digital paintings, in a frenetic aesthetic style similar to MadeIn’s fabric collages. A second type creates a double illusion in which classical Western sculptures appear to be sinking into an unstable ground, their “marble” appearance appear almost fleshy by the way their genitals contour to the floor. The third type shows improbable freestanding sculptures, “photographed” in generic, white spaces, and whose believability and existence seems to exist in a grey zone somewhere between the other two. The classical sculptures hint at the cultural mutability of fine arts traditions, the digital paintings invoke the “cheapness” and easily reproducibility of digitized images in a globalized anonymity. The trick with the images is, they are photographs of what purports to be an acrylic painting. (Effects not visible via digital photos.)
《团结化是一个减损的过程多于增益的过程，“忠诚信徒”永远不会觉得完整，永远不会觉得安全。》系列作品4, Solidarity is more a process of loss than a process of gain, “faithful believers” will never feel complete, never feel safe. Series #4, 绘画，布面丙烯，painting, acrylic on canvas, 150*212cm
《一只花花绿绿的巨兽——平民。它不知道自己的力量，只知道绝对服从。》作品 2, A colorful beast––civilian. He doesn’t know his own power, he only knows absolute obedience. #2, 装置，大理石, installation, marble, 140*70*50cm。
These sculptures, according to the oral explanation delivered to me by the gallery, and who we assume complicit to the “work,” were all physically realized, photographed, but then destroyed. Not only do we become suspicious of the photographic “evidence”, somewhere between visual and cultural perceptions, one might further question reality, a theme of Xu Zhen’s work prominent since he cut off the top of Mt. Everest (sorry, Mt. Qomolangma) in 2005.
These images raise interesting questions on the simulacra, authenticity, national stereotypes, and more. I’m sorry that the images here cannot fully capture the meaning of the works, or their environment. Hopefully this short synopsis offers something.
Please note, all image captions, images, press release, are taken from press materials from the exhibition. A few of the image English translations are my own.
《诗是生活的表现，或则说得更好一点，诗就是生活本身。还不仅此，在诗里生活比在现实本身里还显得更是生活。》Poetry is the expression of life, or better put, life is poetry itself. Not only this, living in poetry seems better than reality. 装置，黑色大理石、旋转灯、早餐, installation, black marble, barber shop poles, sunny-side up eggs, 300*500*300cm。
《民主是我们的目标，但国家必须保持稳定》Democracy is our goal, but the country must remain stable， 装置，钢制弹簧、花岗岩，installation, spring steel & granite, 1000*500*500cm
《理论与实际越是矛盾的群众运动，就越是热衷把自己的信仰加诸别人。》In mass exercise, the greater the conflict between theory and reality, the stronger its eagerness to impose beliefs on others, 装置， 蜡、军帽，installation, wax & military caps, 300＊800＊300cm
The 8th Shanghai Biennale “Rehearsal” began in June 2010, and will include four acts. Act I, the “Ho Chi Minh Trail” was in cooperation with the Long March Project, and will be implemented in Beijing from June through September, 2010.”Rehearsal Act I” takes the the Long March Project’s ongoing Ho Chi Minh Trail as a case study to verify the idea of “cultural creation” and explore the significance of paradigm shifts from “creation” to “rehearsal.”
This rehearsal will serve as a platform for artworks and ideas in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The rehearsal will also provide an opportunity to discuss the role of art and ideas in redefining the combination of “ego-history-society.” The Ho Chi Minh Trail includes stages of research (2008-2009), an educational forum (July 2009), field trips (June to July 2010), Rehearsal Act I (September to November 2010), the “theatre” (October 2010 to February 2011) and a later archive of knowledge. The “rehearsal” and “theatre” components will be included in the Shanghai Biennale 2010.
(the above was excerpted from an article by Gao Shiming, it will be included in the forthcoming “Art in China” magazine, published in co-operation with Contemporary Art & Investment and Iberia Center for Contemporary Art.
Wu Shanzhuan 吴山专
Review from artforum.com (in English here), and in Chinese Yin Xiuzhen’s works have been accorded femininity for the “soft” nature of her signature material: reclaimed fabrics from secondhand clothes. But the artist’s womanly virtues perhaps culminate in her “enterable” spaces, whose employ seems to have reached a crescendo in Collective Subconscious, 2007, currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art. For the piece, viewers are invited to step inside a patchwork caterpillar adjoining two ends of a nostalgic Chinese “breadbox car,” a minibus whose colorful interior, scattered with bar stools, invites communal experiences. In Beijing, Yin’s recent interest in modes of transportation seems bent toward exploring the human body and cultivating experiences on the individual level.Sleeves dangle and collars protrude from the surface of an enormous blue brain sculpture in Thought, 2009; the nuances of the discarded clothes make them seem like souls trying to escape a collective consciousness. Yet there is space within the work—somewhere near the hippocampus—for one viewer to stand and contemplate the structure’s elaborate frame. Echoing “Second Skin,” the exhibition’s title, Skin Cube, 2009, is a magnified cross section of human epidermis also constructed from clothing; it demands association with nearby fleshy sponges flecked with powder and boxed in transparent cases. The miniaturized slice of thoroughfare in Highway, 2009, utilizes apparel as its asphalt but features realistic light fixtures and guardrails. Here, Yin’s modes of transportation have been replaced with a desolate scene. The funereal element that lurks in her work becomes evident again, and the cast-off clothing, still her strongest material, implies that dozens of people have become the blacktop and white lines of the road itself.Inside of Thoughts, 《思想》内景more works below (more…)
Last sunday, Chart Contemporary invited Chen Ke to display “A Room of One’s Own,” a temporary installation that is the fourth in an on-going series of Open Houses, art interventions in some of Beijing’s unique spaces. Chen Ke’s room was a tiny closet of a room in a damp underground maze of dwellings near Lido Hotel. The space seemed perfect for Chen Ke, whose relentless and non-apologetic embrace of the dainty and quaint has come to personify the “cartoon” style of her age-group, but whose open embrace of feminism seems just as subverted as the room itself. Chen says that the idea was inspired by Virginia Woolf, but that the safe space atmosphere of cleanliness and respite was a reaction also to the city’s migrant population.The objects in the room were embroidered by “aunties,” who followed the artist’s instructions and sketches to the thread. (more…)
Li Ming “X X”
No. 319-1 East End Art (A), CaoChangDi Village, Chaoyang District｜朝阳区草场地村319号艺术东区内
November 14–December 27
Li Ming, XX, 2009, still from a color video, 5 minutes 17 seconds.
Eleven videos and sporadic accoutrements litter the floor of this exhibition by the emerging artist Li Ming. A television, cast in the bushes outside the gallery entrance, screens Back Garden, 2008, in which security guards, recurring characters in the artist’s vignettes, romp around the gardens of a residential compound in unintelligible acts of “play.”
The folly continues indoors, where the atmosphere turns to one of extreme irrationality and even perturbation. Li’s works fall into the category of absurd realism; he sets the parameters for the semi-orchestrated madness and compulsive behaviors in his videos, while the improvisation of his actors who interpret his instructions makes the works fascinating to watch. In the video XX, 2009, two men sit on a stone, writhing as they attempt to exchange shirts; the rule is that their skin must always make contact. More awkward body negotiations and Dionysian revelry follow in Afternoon Happiness, 2008, wherein a group of near-naked boys chase one another through a demolished building, smear one another with cream, and then try to lick it off.
The strongest works in the exhibition display Li’s understated production techniques, which do not undermine his ability to captivate viewers. Recurring characters, plants, and unorthodox, sexually charged human contact are just a few elements in his latent symbolic language. An exploration of the boundary between agony and ecstasy is among the most significant leitmotifs here.
Elsewhere, 2009, video_12′09”
On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic, things are beginning to look red here in Beijing, deep red, like a profuse wound. On the Beijing streets, some of the visual celebratory feast residents drank in last year during the Olympics is being recreated in billboards, television galas, parades, mass performances and wide-ranging worship for spectacle, but the festivities this year are tinted with more eulogizing, more solemnity, more red. In a commemorative fine art exhibition at the National Art Museum of China (closed on Sept 14) red not only prevailed in the literal sense, its ideological presence was overpowering. In this exhibition that sprawled out over the entirety of the NAMOC’s exhibition halls, co-sponsors Cultural Ministry of China and NAMOC pulled sixty years of revolutionary masterpieces out of storage from all of Beijing’s major collections, including the Military Museum and the former Revolutionary Museum (soon to reopen as the Museum of Chinese History). It was a mind-blowing show, by scale and quality alone. Also, by their omissions, curators highlighted what isn’t included in the sanctioned visual lexicon that is “fine art” in China today. This became especially apparent when viewers started to wonder on what floor the “contemporary” were being hidden.
Divided into three main sections, oil painting, traditional painting, and propaganda posters with comics and animation, “masterpieces” of recent art history, were in every room.
Heading directly to oil paintings, I was intercepted by the captivating magnificence of Chen Yifei’s Seizing the Presidential Palace, (1977), a work that could inspire anyone to make revolution. More familiar as Chen’s work was his Looking at History From My Space (1979), also by Chen Yifei. Perhaps the most iconic painting in contemporary art history was Father (1981) by Luo Zhongli, displayed adjacent to My Space. This work was much more three-dimensional than ever imagined, through a painting technique the “dirt” on the ‘father’s’ eyebrows and on his turban look as if they might literally crumble off the canvas onto the floor.
Next door, two of Chen Danqing’s Tibetan Series paintings dating to 1982 were exhibited, which seemed to fit into a long and ongoing tradition of representing minorities as dark-skinned and almost monstrous. Another work brought out from the coffers and representing the ’85 New Wave was Meng Luding and Zhang Qun’s New Era––The Enlightenment of Adam and Eve. Painted in a surrealist style, this work is often interpreted as a metaphor for the “enlightenment” of their generation in the 80s. (more…)
In Chinese pinyin, Kàn Bù Wán literally means, “You can’t finish looking.” These works by the emerging artist Wang Yifan embody the statement—with five 24-hour videos and 20,000 characters written over eleven canvases, it would take one more than 120 hours to see this exhibition in its entirety. The artist doesn’t hope that anyone will try. Thus he liberates the viewer using impossible length, mundane appearance and self-evident simplicity to imply that seeing with our minds is just as important as seeing with our eyes.
Projected in the stairwell is Quietude, a short homage to everyday memories of waiting while staring at the shadows of leaves on the concrete. Like a sunbeam, visitors’ shadows are intended to mingle with the projection. Subtle movements from the wind are visible to keen-eyed people.
The artist’s conceptual evolution begins with stories on canvas, represented by “blackboard” works like The Story of Ma Li. One single work of eleven canvases, the original story was authored Wang Yifan, and then copied onto canvas by eleven of his friends. Each canvas has a different “artist.”
Now on display at the National Museum of Art is a rare glimpse of the museum’s folk art collection, the gifts of the devoted folk art researcher Wang Shucun, who carefully preserved and hid these items throughout many turbulent years of history. The exhibition only runs until April 14, but is highly recommended.
Its not rare to see “folk arts” in Beijing, dreams of tourist dollars inspire the same kitschy souvenir-style junk that is available all over the nation. But before the internet, the tourist dollar, television, industrial printing, and before the Cultural Revolution, the Nianhua was a very unique form of folk art developed in China. Nianhua are colorful pictures hung in homes to celebrate the new year, tiehua, the practice of “hanging pictures” was once an integral holiday custom. People still hang posters, but the hand printed and painted art form of nianhua is near obsolete. However, in a pre-industrial society, the incredible production speeds, line assembly, and low production costs of nianhua could have been called a “Chinese characteristic,” indeed the production mode of contemporary art from China has also become a new trend in critical analysis.
China’s common folk have been producing printed nianhua on an ever increasing scale since the Song dynasty, the practice fell out of fashion with industrial printing techniques and was abruptly put to an end during political campaigns of the last century. These block printing methods developed in China evolved into personality cults in Japan, evidenced in print artists like Hiroshige; however in China, entire towns became famous for their different production methods and distinctive styles, sometimes varying by only the colors available. These styles are evidenced in excellent surviving examples of work, and those displayed here encompass the most important nianhua production zones from across China. (more…)
Wang Guangle @ Beijing Commune
until May 14
According to tradition in his hometown, elderly people will paint their coffins with one layer each year. Wang Guangle has adopted this to the canvas, in remarkably more colorful layers than we might see on anything to be buried underground. As always, his work reveals time, patience, and the somewhat unexpected results of turning concept into canvas.
The artist himself is extremely popular among Chinese collectors and has a great reputation among artists, but many “outsider” viewers (Laowai) fail to see the appeal. Unfortunately, this show does not reflect what I consider some of Wang’s best works, those (I’m judging by what I saw on the gallery website) which are now represented by Beijing Commune.
His early works, realist canvases featuring afternoon light hitting the terrazzo floor, reveal ideas essential to the artist’s development; they were not on show at the opening. Later works where he grinds thick layers of dried paint into what looks like actual terrazzo on the canvas were neither on display, nor were photographs of his legendary performance in his Suojiacun studio (read more below). The terrazzo pattern and coffin paint series are his trademarks. A more detailed description is below, in a short artist introduction written for “Looking for Me” (2008)
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.
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…)
In Shenzhen’s OCT Contemporary Art Terminal , Zhang Peili installed his third solo of 2008, again featuring remains, Mute. In this “scene” (a “new form of art” that Zhang Peili has been developing, he contrasts the real and the perceived, the static and the dynamic, over the abandoned reckage of manufacturing sewing tables and two parallel video projections of people working in the exact same space.
Concurrently, at Beijing’s JoyArt Space, Ni Haifeng (artist site) employs similar on-site tailors who shredded, then reconstruct more than 10 tons of reclaimed fabric in Para Production. The result is a wall sculpture that reaches to the ceiling; remains are scattered across the space. The show is curated by Pauline Yao, see more photos of the show and its installation at her site.
Although these two artists have different aims, the similarity of their means is outstanding. Both employ anonymous, live performers in the installation of, and integrally in the manufacture of their works. Both use the reconstructing, reorganizing and recontextualizing of materials, Ni Haifeng working with the fabric itself, and Zhang Peili with video clips that he garnered from a performance within the space. Both display their final product (fabric-sculpture, video montage) amidst the un-edited ruins of its production process.
For more “common threads” and variations on this theme, please reference Zheng Guogu’s Factory exhibition, January 2008 at Beijing’s Tang Contemporary.
More exhibition scenes below . . .
No. 319-1 East End Art (A), CaoChangDi Village, Chaoyang District｜朝阳区草场地村319号艺术东区内
August 30-October 12
Chinese culture is steeped in delicate intimations sometimes so slight they can be easily missed. In “Subtlety,” curator Karen Smith presents a thoughtful selection of nine Chinese artists—of divergent generations, media, and creative thought processes—who demonstrate this historical refinement. Wang Wei creates site-specific installations that transform their exhibition spaces. For this exhibition, he has enlarged a dozen pieces of the tiny furniture used in real estate mock-ups. These life-size wardrobes and kitchen sets have an odd effect on the space, causing double takes. The artificiality of these stunningly white wooden sculptures is enhanced by their epoxy-resin edges, which give them the appearance of having been pulled from plastic molds. Hu Xiaoyuan and Qiu Xiaofei, who are a couple, present independent works in adjacent rooms; each artist uses a combination of found objects and conventional artistic media to evoke nostalgia. For Permanent Address, 2008, Qiu has assembled from flea-market goods a complete domicile, its corridor entrance flanked by towers of discarded electronics, as well as rice cookers realistically re-created in painted wood. Hu’s Summer Solstice, 2008, is more symbolist and organic: a battered, lift-top school desk is filled with cicada husks; everyday objects fashioned from coarse papier-mâché are displayed on small wooden shelves above it. From the open drawer of the desk, a roll of blank paper spills out onto the floor. The cicadas represent years of gestation in a harsh, survival-of-the-fittest educational system that the surrounding desk and school supplies intimate. In another room, Jia Aili, a young painter known for barren landscapes and ominous figures wearing gas masks, presents a video filmed out the window of a train. Using charcoal pencil, he has covered the nearly sixteen-foot-high adjacent wall with realistic cracks, flimsy nightgowns, and blank canvases. An otherworldly light casts shadows on this crowded wall of nonexistent, two-dimensional objects in the dim room, and a trademark demonic gas mask stares at viewers from its center.
read more critics’ picks at artforum.com
Sui Jianguo’s piece above, Untitled, spills into the nave at Linda Gallery’s inaugural exhibition in 798, “HANGING IN THE SKY, DRIFTING ON THE SURFACE.” The Chinese title expresses a similar sentiment of this piece more nicely, with …bu neng kaojin (cannot approach). The exhibition was curated by Zhu Qi, and features some quite respectable artists, Zhan Wang 展望, Wang Jianwei 汪建伟, Gao Lei 高磊, Wang Luyan 王鲁炎, and others I feel particular repulsion to, aka (Zhang Peng 张鹏).
This latest Sui Jianguo installation truly fooled me; its haphazard placement in what could very possibly be a half-finished gallery almost makes it look like management had a little problem with concrete machine. One can’t help but wonder, is this work masking a more cynical implication, or perhaps hinting at exhibition fatigue?
“观念的笔记”把后现代画家的困扰当作前提：是一种没有总体的意图与法则可以依赖的虚空。画册的前言里面提出，目前的流行画派丰富而不断地被消耗掉，引起 “绘画概念极其单一，反映社会，或者通过反映内心状态来反映社会”。 此展览试图呈现当代艺术的自觉性。伊比利亚的小策展组收集的十六位画家能否使观众体验“主动试验性”的绘画线索呢？也许多少会一点吧。
“观念的笔记”前辈画家的代表中，有王音对绘画史本身的研究、王鲁炎的具有平面感而以图像为主的绘画、季大纯的重新分析科学真理和意图意义的绘画、还有尹齐的复杂奶油画，后者在试图改变视觉和意识上的规则。年轻的画家相对来说多一些，像龚剑的非审美的、飞溅着白色点点的画面、王光乐最新水磨石的尝试、李威的悬念性的电影语言、还有刘韡的电脑设计过的 “生产线” 大画面、王亚强的自学绘画手法，都达到了新鲜和挑战人眼球的效果；参与的人数众多，也使展览当中的想法充满丰富性，给每个人带来一次惊喜。
偶尔在现场也会碰到策展人所批评的“潮流绘画”的虚饰 （像符号的复制或者反映出影像文化），但是 “观念的笔记”的整体方向是往新鲜的艺术试验上走，一方面提供了有学术价值 的观赏，同时在年纪上相差二十多年的中国画家的绘画试验里，也找到了一 条线索。
文 / 安静 /Lee Ambrozy
此展览评论在artforum.com.cn发表 The review here is of the “Notes of Conception: a local narrative of Chinese contemporary painting” exhibition at 798’s Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, on show till August 15, 2008. Haven’t had time to translate it into English––sorry English-speaking readers!
Li Zhanyang – ‘Rent’ – Rent Collection Yard
Galerie Urs Meile | 26 April – 24 August, 2008
Li Zhanyang’s solo show is a worthy visit this season, he has modeled his collection of sculptures on an “instructional” collective artwork that was commissioned during the Cultural Revolution. Instead of featuring the landlords, rapists, suffering and poor of the original, substitutes high-profile characters from the world of Chinese contemporary art. His commentary, his drole means of representing these folk, and his skillful adaption of the original is intelligent and timely. Due to the historical and social nature of this work, it is best appreciated through accompanying texts, below are excerpts from the gallery press release and a translation of Ai Weiwei’s response to the artist.
text: Nataline Colonnello (the following is extracted from the gallery press release)
‘Rent’ – Rent Collection Yard (2007) is the title of the largest and most complex sculptural installation Li Zhanyang (born 1969, Jilin Province, China) has ever created. Taking eighteen months of production after nearly a decade of conceptual incubation, Li Zhanyang’s ‘Rent’ – Rent Collection Yard is a humorous and subjective look at the Chinese contemporary art scene. It is informed by the artist’s personal experience. Characters, both local and international, are brought to life. The 34 life-size coloured fiberglass figures of this installation are modeled after the likeness of various people familiar to the artist – among them international celebrities as well as some only known in Chinese contemporary art circles. They include Chinese and Western artists, curators, collectors, gallery owners, gallery assistants, and art students. The gathered subjects were chosen according to their public or professional roles. Displayed on a real stage they were designed to showcase each figure in a striking a pose – dramatic or absurd, some of them with imbuing mordant satire. Following six conceptual themes (Paying Rent, Foot Washing, Raping, Oppressing, Dying a Martyr, and History Observed), the sculptures are spread throughout three exhibition spaces of Galerie Urs Meile in Beijing. The congregation seemingly gathered or juxtaposed is part of a broader and fabricated narrative revealing latent conflicts and power relations – the dirt underneath the high-gloss surface of the art world. The artist places his fiberglass alter ego amidst the other characters, representing himself by gazing intently into the darkness of the spectators. And among the spectators, Li Zhanyang places two exceptional figures in the front row: Joseph Beuys and Mao Zedong (in History Observed). Beuys, one of the most influential figures in the modern contemporary art scene, is expounding on the dynamic and chaotic interplay in front of them with a wild and passionate gesture beside the icon and father figure of revolutionary China.
The work is a contemporary transposition of the story of landlord Liu Wencai. During the revolutionary era, Liu Wencai was a victim of political muckraking and depicted as a brutal exploiter of the peasants.
No.A-8 Caochangdi,(P.O.box No.71 Dashanzi),Chao Yang District｜北京市朝阳区草场地村甲八号 May 31–July 13
In this exhibition, the sometimes-dense compositions and concentrated colors of Liang Yuanwei’s canvases nicely contrast with the cool, spacious gallery that houses them. On display are twelve large paintings and fourteen smaller renditions of the same patterns, all from the series “A Piece of Life” and completed in the last year and a half. Each painting is dominated by a pattern, thoughtfully chosen from among the artist’s garments or selected from the many objects surrounding her-a sofa, curtains, swatches of cloth. Repeated evenly for the full length of the canvas, the flowers, spots, and, in one work, what look like palm trees are made by precise brushstrokes in thickly layered paint; they resemble classical Chinese painting’s delicate and detailed gongbi strokes. The repetitive, meditative process required to unfurl these patterns limited Yuanwei to one to three inches of progress per day, and a single mistake or diffusion of concentration would destroy an entire canvas (and, subsequently, up to a month’s work). Each painting thus serves as testament to both her desire to work more with oils and her incredible focus. Although inspired by motifs on two-dimensional fabrics, their shadows and light also give the impression of motion.
These works can easily be mistaken for a feminist/feminine pursuit, as in her earlier, well-received photography series “Don’t Forget to Say You Love Me . . . (When You Fuck Me),” 2005. Those staged boudoir photos of women were a savvy comment on what it takes to break into the fine-art world. This most recent body of work confirms Yuanwei’s observant nature and logical approach.
Originally published on ArtForum.com