Location: Asian Art Museum 200 Larkin Street San Francisco, CA 94102
Dates: February 5 - September 12, 2010
The Shanghai Show at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco opens February 12, 2010 in conjunction with the Shanghai Celebration, the year-long Bay Area collaboration honoring San Francisco's sister city and coinciding with the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai.
Britta Erickson is the curator of Shanghai Today (1980-Present), which is a section of the Shanghai exhibition. At a lecture on February 5, 2010, Britta explained that each piece of the show was chosen in order to portray the range of styles, media, and references that are present in the contemporary art of Shanghai. Britta accomplished her goal of showcasing the range of the artistic practice of artists working in Shanghai through the range of media selected that portrays a snapshot of the contemporary culture of Shanghai today. The show reflects the importance of photography, video, and installation as important modes of production in Shanghai.
After the lecture by Britta Erickson, we were able to hear directly from three of the artists in the show: Zheng Chongbin, Li Huayi, Jian-Jun Zhang.
The artist talked about the relation of contemporary Chinese ink painting to traditional Chinese ink painting. Contemporary Chinese ink painting extends the traditional vocabulary of ink painting. Contemporary Chinese ink painting refers to various forms of traditional ink painting yet, Chongbing creates a depth to the piece. Traditional Chinese ink painting is very linear, however this piece has a sense of space and depth achieved through the use of acrylic paint mixed with ink applied with a Western brush. Chongbing uses acrylic white paint vs. “white space” typical in Chinese ink painting creating a sense of physicality of the work. Chongbin’s work, The Dimension of Ink No. 1, references traditional ink painting as well as Western influences.
Li Huayi described his work as semi-abstract. His method of working is very similar to Zheng Chongbin’s. He discussed how if he stopped halfway then his work would look exactly like Zheng Chongbin’s. The artist draws on the traditional notion of “Chi” which is the energy and body movement expressed through the brush, however Li Huayi uses a western brush. His work reflects a personal approach to both the past and the present of Chinese landscape painting.
Jian-Jun Zhang refers to his installation as a “societal landscape”. In this installation the artist draws upon the traditional rock garden form with contemporary elements in order to signify the squeezing together of old and new, east and west. Jian-Jun made molds of Taihu rocks and cast them in silicone. Jian-Jun also made a mold of an antique Han Dynasty vase also cast in peach silicone. The color of the rocks and the Han dynasty vase were chosen by going into fashion schools to see what the latest color trends are thus choosing rose, peach, and burgundy. Referencing the destruction of the architecture of Shanghai, bricks were taken from houses that were constructed in Shanghai in the 1920s that have now been demolished. Atop these bricks were laid the rocks and the vase. Scattered throughout the bricks are little “trees” which are solar powered and add a touch of fantasy to the rock garden.
This piece is partially visible upon entering into the museum on the left hand side thus drawing you into the exhibit. The placement of this piece is perfect as it combines East and West thus inviting both audiences into the space. The piece is accessible to both a traditional audience as it clearly references the rock garden but also ties in modern issues of globalization.
Shen Fan, Commemorating Huang Binhong-Scroll, 2007
Liu Jianhua, Shadow in the Water, 2010
Yang Fudong, Liu Lan, 2003
Overall, the show does present a snapshot of the culture of Shanghai today as well as provides a comment on the impact of globalization in Chinese contemporary art practice.
All images courtesy of Shanghai Exhibition Catalogue
-- CHARLOTTE MILLER