suspended: frames that don’t frame

Ay, so much art stuff going on in Shanghai these days! Pearl Lam has a new exhibition up and it’s pretty neat. It’s a solo show by Turkish artist Mehmet Ali Uysal and his Suspended Series of Dali-esque ‘melted’ frames hung on the wall, on hooks, or on hangers is simply amazing.

Ornate gilded frames were once de rigueur for highbrow art, but you will very rarely see such an ostentatious frame on a contemporary piece. Uysal’s polyester works twist and warp these frames’ forms, robbing them of their rigidity. With no structure and no art to border, they hang there forlornly, taking on ‘object’ status and themselves becoming the works they were meant to enhance. Amazing.

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Mehmet Ali Uysal, Suspended Series, 2014

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Mehmet Ali Uysal, Suspended Series/Meat, 2014

Mehmet Ali Uysal: The Past
September 1 – November 15, 2014

Pearl Lam Galleries
pearllam.com
G/F, 181 Middle Jiangxi Road
Huangpu District, Shanghai
Monday to Sunday, 10:30 AM – 7 PM

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‘the equinox’ at moma (tbt)

From last summer at MoMA: seven sculptures grouped together in an installation called The Equinox by Swiss-born American artist Carol Bove. Technically The Equinox is an arrangement rather than an installation (id est, an exhibition rather than a work in itself). When I first walked into the room and saw it I was like … what am I looking at?  The sculptures aren’t impressive ‘wow’ kind of pieces, but there were a serene, beautiful kind of harmony. And I’m a sucker for modernism.

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Carol Bove, The Equinox (installation view and detail), 2013

the hypnotic power of strung-up rice

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Sayaka Ishizuka, Rice Deity, 2014

There’s some cool stuff from the Japanese artist Sayaka Ishizuka over at Pearl Lam Galleries in Shanghai. Unfortunately the exhibition is ending soon (August 15) … so I better post pictures now!

Her works use everyday things like grains of rice and chopsticks to create this supremely tranquil, almost spiritual feeling. The installation piece that is undoubtedly the focus of the exhibition, Rice Deity, is definitely worth noting, with strands of rice hanging from the ceiling. As you walk amidst these rice strings in the darkened space … it’s pretty darned hypnotic.

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Sayaka Ishizuka: Life Threads
May 12 – August 15, 2014

Pearl Lam Galleries
pearllam.com
G/F, 181 Middle Jiangxi Road
Huangpu District, Shanghai
Monday to Sunday, 10:30 AM – 7 PM

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?

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!

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.

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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!

animamix biennale at moca shanghai

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Han Yajuan, (detail)

The Animamimx Biennale is closing at the end of the week at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai. Since I still haven’t posted anything about it … I’m getting on that now :)

The group show is all about the animated, so it’s a mixed bag of artists and mediums – illustration, painting, video, sculpture, mixed media, et cetera. Not my cup of tea, but overall a good show. On the ground floor, Lu Yang’s Uterusman is weird and some of the paintings by Viki Lulu House (an artist collective) are just too cute, but I found the film Time of Cherry Blossoms by Tsai Shiucheng on the second floor was quite moving and the top floor’s Little Mona Lisa special exhibition interesting.

I don’t have a favorite museum in Shanghai, but MOCA is pretty solid and definitely on the upper half of the list. And given all the new museums popping up around China, MOCA, which was established in 2005 and is located in People’s Park, is one of Shanghai’s more established art museums even though it’s not even ten years old. Crazy, right? Since it’s not a very big museum and doesn’t have a permanent collection, it doesn’t warrant multiple trips per exhibition for me, but I’ll look into getting a membership for next year regardless.

Sigh … I miss having free admission to New York museums!

Animamix Biennale: Rediscovery
April 12 – June 15, 2014

MOCA Shanghai
mocashanghai.org
People’s Park, 231 Nanjing West Road, Shanghai
Sunday to Thursday, 10 AM – 6 PM
Friday to Saturday, 9 AM – 7 PM
Admission: 50 RMB

museum myth – the new yuz museum

Yet another museum has popped up in China! Because the only thing that China needs (besides more people or more pollution) is more museums! Because museums equal culture! The Yuz Museum opened a few weeks back on May 18, which oh so coincidentally is International Museum Day. Its inaugural exhibition Myth/History: Yuz Collection of Contemporary Art  is a behemoth, by which I mean: holy crap those are giant installations.

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Zhang Huan, Buddha Hand, 2006
Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Freedom, 2009
Madein Company, Calm, 2009
Adel Abdessemed, Telle mere tel fils, 2008

The museum is located in the West Bund area, which is … kind of in the middle of no where. It’s fairly removed from the city, it’s a bit of a trek from the subway station, it was hard to find a taxi in the area, and I didn’t see anywhere to eat in my short wander. But what the area does have is space. Longhua Airport used to dominate the area, so the Yuz Museum is actually housed in a former aircraft hangar – hence the beautiful trussed ceiling and large main exhibition space.

It seems like people are throwing money into the West Bund, hoping to transform it into a lucrative cultural area (with an emphasis on the ‘lucrative’). I’m not so sure the culture part will really come through. Last year there was the West Bund Biennale and earlier this year the Long Museum Puxi opened not too far from where the Yuz is, but plopping museums down doesn’t create culture, especially since the Yuz and Long Museums are cut from the same a-little-too-expensively-tailored cloth – they’re museums that are essentially the private collections of filthy rich people. Not really into public programs, high admission fees, and oh, they’re chain museums too. There’s an existing Yuz Museum in Jakarta, Indonesia, and there’s an existing Long Museum in Pudong … also in Shanghai.

The Myth/History exhibition is good, and I do recommend it. It’s interesting for having so many big names all in one museum. It’s like someone bought a book on contemporary Chinese art and made an exhibit from the artists listed. The highlights were definitely the installations in the Great Hall, which is understandable given the building’s layout, so the galleries along the perimeter edge felt a little like afterthoughts – albeit very well-stocked afterthoughts. The Yuz itself makes the list of good museums in Shanghai, but the West Bund area is really annoying to me. Eventually I’ll have to pluck up and make the long trip out again for the Long Museum Puxi, but … ugh.

Myth/History: Yuz Collection of Contemporary Art
May 18 – November 18, 2014

Yuz Museum
35 Fenggu Road, near Longteng Avenue
Xuhui District, Shanghai
Tuesday to Sunday, 10:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Admission: 60 RMB

advance through retreat (or walk on by)

Two weeks back I went to the opening of Advance through Retreat, the current exhibition at the Rockbund Art Museum. The title comes from The Art of War by Sun Tzu, and supposedly the exhibition is all about contemporary artists using tradition for progress … or some-such.

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Andreas Mayer-Brennenstuhl, Rewriting Modernity; De-growth Now, 2014

The show was decent enough, but it’s not something I would really recommend, and I probably won’t visit again. It was just kind of blah. Certainly there were some interesting pieces (the video by Pablo Wendel, Terracotta Warrior – Xi’an PR China, 2006, is pretty hilarious), but group exhibitions are tricky because the concept needs to be really strong to tie things together, especially with a space as gigantic as the RAM. Basically I found the exhibition very scattered. If you actually took the time to read the introduction, you could get a feel for what Martina Koeppel-Yang (the curator) was trying to do, but her words didn’t come through the works very well.

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On Socialist Democracy and the Chinese Legal System

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Jimmie Durham, ARC DE TRIOMPHE for Personal Use, 1996

It’s hard to follow-up Bharti Kher’s exhibition, and since this exhibition will run through the summer, you have to forgive it for being a bit lacking. Summer exhibitions tend to be throwaways because people are either too busy enjoying themselves on vacation or it’s too darn hot to do anything but sit in front of the air conditioner. Anyhow, if you’re bored and have 30 RMB to burn, you might as well visit the Rockbund.

Advance through Retreat
May 10 – August 03, 2014

Rockbund Art Museum
rockbundartmuseum.org
20 Huqiu Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai
Tuesday to Sunday, 10 AM – 6 PM

osage: over the ocean

A few weeks back I went to the opening of My Father Is over the Ocean (solo show by Hong Kong artist Au Hoi Lam), which also represented the re-opening (in a new location) of Osage Gallery. The exhibition is almost entirely about the relationship between the artist and her father and her grief at his passing, with the title derived from the folk song “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean” (which according to my Chinese colleague is not widely known in China). Overall I liked the exhibition and thought it was well done, partly because I’m a sucker for this kind of softer, more nuanced art, but it lacked a kind of power I was hoping for, so I wouldn’t say it’s a must-see.

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Sixty Questions for My Father (or for Myself), 2012-2013

I had never been to the original Osage Gallery, which closed before I arrived in Shanghai, but I gotta say … the current location is awkward, at the edge of an apartment complex in a fairly isolated area, and the interior layout is troublesome. The gallery is split between the building’s ground floor and basement, and it’s pretty obvious the basement was converted from mechanical services because the small adjoining rooms and narrow entrances are super aggravating. The original folk song is about someone who has gone – Bonnie in the song and the artist’s father in the show – and the repeated lyrics create this feeling of nostalgia and interiority with a twinge of melancholy. The piece Sixty Questions for My Father played nicely into this. Au Hoi Lam had disassembled the bunk bed her father used to sleep on and wrote questions on each piece. The repetition of these various wooden boards against the half-painted blue walls reflected that nautical, drifting theme quite nicely.

There is definitely an interesting thought process to Au Hoi Lam’s work, but her over-reliance on personal stories felt a bit limiting at times. And I found her paintings to be quite subpar. Without the blue walls, all the pieces would’ve been blah. I’m not sure if the blue paint was the artist’s decision or the curator’s, but the bright hue was definitely necessary to tie the works together, keep the mood buoyant, and provide some color in the space. The exhibition found a greater measure of success in the larger multi-piece installation works, but will I visit the exhibition again? No, it’s not powerful enough to warrant a second trip. Will I visit the gallery again? Only if there’s something I’m absolutely dying to see, which is unlikely. Because the location really sucks.

Au Hoi Lam: My Father Is over the Ocean. Shanghai Postscript.
March 14 – April 14 May 30, 2014

Osage Shanghai
osagegallery.com
Room 101, Block 5, Wangzu City
251 Caoxi Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai
Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 AM – 6:30 PM
Sunday, 2:30 PM – 6:30 PM