an experimental velázquez


Here’s a work based on Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656), from the CAFA Experimental Art Department’s undergraduate student exhibition. Pretty funny, taking an architectural section of the work (cutting even through people!). But not getting how this is ‘experimental’.

Francis Bacon did his Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (based, as the title suggests, on a Velázquez work) in 1953. So congrats, kid at CAFA, you’ve graduated, but it’s not a novel idea. Artists copy masterworks all the time as learning exercises and sometimes they branch off and add their own style. Sure, some are more successful than others, but experimental? What does that even mean!?

cafa undergrads: experimental art

Previously I posted about works from the CAFA postgraduate students’ exhibition. Well, the undergraduates had exhibitions too, although they were less refined and less interesting. Here are two works from the Experimental Art Department’s show. There was some weird stuff. Even more crappy stuff.

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Do other schools have experimental art departments? When I first read it, I thought I was mixing up the translation … but nope, it’s actually called the Experimental Art Department (实验艺术系). How do you teach someone to be experimental? It was mostly installations, so maybe that’s what they were getting at, but there were also paintings and sculptural works … and it’s not like you could call the works from other departments ‘traditional’.

In art school, aren’t most students experimental to some degree?

dumplings with soy sauce (only)


I have discovered that even though I have been eating jiaozi (饺子 jiǎozi, dumplings) since I was a wee one, I have been eating them wrong. I know that some people use a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar as dipping sauce for jiaozi, but I thought this was a variation, not the standard, since my family always uses a mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil or soy sauce by itself. Apparently this is extremely abnormal.

Story time: In Beijing, I was a bit peckish and went down to the hotel restaurant, where I ordered a plate of jiaozi. The waitress brought a bowl of soy sauce and vinegar and I asked her if I could get plain soy sauce instead. With the look on her face, I might as well have asked for ketchup. She looked really confused and asked me three times if I was sure I didn’t want any vinegar mixed in! When bringing my bowl of soy sauce, she was like, “And here’s your soy sauce … with no vinegar. Are you sure?” Ha. Then she went and told a fellow waitress about the silly Southerner (jiaozi are more common to the north of China than the south) and they had a good laugh … at my expense. Sigh.

cafa art for the soul

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Life, it’s always getting in the way of things, eh? Here are more pictures from the CAFA show last month in Beijing! I gotta say, I was duly impressed. Not only were the students’ works amazing, but the museum itself was beautiful. White walls, good lighting, and high ceilings make my day any day!

i know that feeling (in sculpture form)

Wandering around the CAFA campus was great fun because there were a number of undergraduate student exhibitions scattered throughout. I stumbled upon the sculpture studio, and unfortunately the sculpture exhibition wouldn’t start until the week after, but I saw this piece and thought it was pretty great.


I don’t know who the artist is since there was no label, but it’s pretty amazing, right? Part of me thinks it’s a self-portrait, but even if it’s not a direct self-portrait, I think all students, architects, and the like can sympathize. For my part, I’ve definitely fallen asleep in similarly awkward positions at my drafting table.

white and spiky

Oy. It’s been crazy busy lately. A few weeks back I was in Beijing for work and caught the exhibition of postgraduate work at the CAFA (Central Academy of Fine Arts) Museum. Not sure if it’s still up or not, but it was definitely a treat. CAFA’s probably the best art school in the nation, and the student work was pretty darn amazing.


Yang Zhou (杨洲), Zha (扎), 2014

This installation consisted of ceramic spikes and ready-made furniture by Yang Zhou. I found it immensely appealing and eerily familiar since growing up, my room always had white walls and white furniture (in every single house). The use of understated furniture, the blank whiteness of it all, the spikes that almost look like grass and therefore somehow don’t seem that dangerous … it’s a quiet sort of terror that reminds me of The Virgin Suicides, that kind of whitewashed dread that lurks beneath every pretty facade.

Lots more to show, stay tuned!

back in china. alive. somewhat.

Today is the first of September, and it’s been over a month since my last post. Wanna know why? Because I’ve left New York. Lots of moving and stuff. And I’m now in China. I’ve actually been in China for a few weeks now, but I was busy running a workshop up in Beijing for a week, and now I’m trying to get settled in Shanghai.

I’m still doing some work for the architecture firm I worked at over the summer, so that gives me some stuff to do … but I haven’t been able to find a full-time job yet, and this prolonged unemployment is making me very nervous! Also, I’ve resorted to posting by email once again because I’m trying to see how long I can hold out without a VPN service. Ah, Great Firewall of China, I bow to you once more! I have a whole backlog of posts from New York and Beijing to get through … so be prepared for an onslaught in the coming days.


The above picture is from “Ghost Street” (簋街 / Gui Jie) in Beijing.

takoyaki = yummy octopus balls

I am by no means a glutton. I like food, but I actually don’t eat a whole lot of it. I do, however, like what I like. And takoyaki I like. And I want more of. It’s a Japanese dish that I bought on the street in Beijing, and it was pretty magical. They had just finished off a batch when I got to the little stall so I decided to wait and watch them cook it. It’s pretty cool. They have this special dimpled pan that they pour batter into, and then stick octopus pieces and some other small things. As they cooked the lady was constantly picking at them, turning them so they became little spheres of goodness.

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The presentation was quite nice too, especially in comparison to most Chinese stalls where everything gets squished into a plastic bag. Four little octopus balls to a boat, covered with some sauce, green onions, and dried fish shavings, with a pair of chopsticks tucked in and napkins underneath. It was amazing. It was 10 kuai (about $1.50) which might be considered a bit pricier than the stuff on sticks that most Chinese stalls sell … but wow, so much better (even though I do have a fondness for that stuff as well).

Thankfully I live in the wonderful city that is New York, where every cuisine under the sun can be found. So it shouldn’t be too long before I get some takoyaki again!

raffles city beijing

There are a hell of a lot of malls in China. I grew up in suburban America, so I of course have fond memories of going to the mall on the weekend. Because there’s really not much to do in suburban American on the weekend other than go shopping, eat, or watch a movie – all of which were conveniently located at the local mall. Nowadays the (American) mall has basically died out. In China, they’re alive and well … although a bit anemic.

That’s what happens when there are a million malls within spitting distance of each other, and all of them carry just about the same things, and all of them are more expensive than your average local can afford to shop at. They’re really all about the same. Basically, they’re massive, shiny, and always sorta empty. It really doesn’t make any sense why they keep getting built, because they don’t seem very profitable. It’s also really freakin’ easy to get turned around in one of them and I hate how they’re designed, although many of them are quite pretty.


This is an interior shot of Raffles City Beijing. There’s another Raffles City in Shanghai. And … a few other cities. Because why stop at one, right? I’m not really sure what to make of the angular glass blob that kind of grew off of the floors into the open space. Probably they were just trying to add a bit of excitement into the plan of it so there could be some sort of connecting vertical element instead of just level upon level of the same, but no. Totes odd.  Oh, and without a doubt, if it’s a Chinese mall, there is either a Costa, Starbucks, or Coffee Bean. Even though a lot of Chinese people don’t drink coffee.