Friday, March 12, 2010

Shanghai Revolution

Exhibition Title: Shanghai
Location: Asian Art Museum 200 Larkin Street San Francisco, CA 94102
Dates: February 5 - September 12, 2010

I know next to nothing about Shanghai. Upon visiting the exhibition, Shanghai, at the Asian Art Museum, I was hoping to discover a lot more. It was a rather small exhibition organized historically and, I imagine, with the intention of illustrating the various art methods in different time periods. Much of the work was, for lack of better words, stereotypical to what Americans think of when asked about Asian Art. I was hoping the contemporary room would provide something to the contrary. In a way it did, but at the same time, there was not enough to see, as it was located in the smallest exhibition space.

As I continue with my contributions to this blog, I am writing from the perspective of my own personal growth and knowledge of the art world. I am working myself into comfort so the ideas that I formulate come from finding something particular to my journey. Though there were some noteworthy pieces in the show, I will leave that to my colleagues to discuss. What was fascinating to me was the Revolution area of this exhibition. It was not, however, for the content of the art, but for the process. I find it rather bizarre that I did not evaluate the space on aesthetic but mastery basically because I have experience with relief printmaking. If I did not know ahead of time that the space was dedicated to Revolutionary posters, I would have referred to it as the woodcut area. By this, I mean that I don’t know what was on the woodblock as I was mesmerized by the craftsmanship. I even brought it up with others with experience in the art form. For anyone who has ever done relief, they know the instability that can be associated with working with wood. There are various obstacles to master including, type of wood, size / quality of tools, chipping, etc. In addition, I wondered about the technology available to print makers in Shanghai during said time period. What sorts of supplies did they use to complete the print? I couldn’t focus on anything else. My mind was all encompassed by questioning the who, what, when, where, how of the process instead of the content. My big questions: Is this a regular occurrence with artists? Do they forget to see the aesthetic and narrow onto solely on the craft? Is it still considered aesthetic if the craft is what the viewer focuses on? Is art only subject to message and “prettiness”? That’s right, I’m asking you.


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