clowns, color, and more clowns

Clowns. Lots and lots of clowns. Are you afraid of clowns? Let’s hope not.

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Over at the Rockbund Art Museum, there’s a trippy new solo exhibition by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone called Breathe Walk Die. It’s part performance art and part installation, with 40 people dressed as clowns seated, lying down, or reposing against railings and columns. The bright gradient walls and circular paintings of the museum’s four main gallery floors complete the bulk of the exhibition.

I wouldn’t say I have a particular phobia about clowns, but … there’s something about the falseness of a clown, that supposed ‘harbinger of happiness’ that makes me uncomfortable. It’s just too fake; there just has to be something supremely dark and twisty underneath it all. The exhibition is pretty cool though. It’s just … oy. Clowns.

Ugo Rondinone: Breathe Walk Die
September 13, 2014 – January 4, 2015

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

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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

mr & mrs bund at night

I’m not what one would call a ‘gourmet’ or ‘foodie’. I could eat macaroni and cheese all week. That being said, I do appreciate good food. And Mr & Mrs Bund is real good food.

After 11 PM, they do set late night dinners, which are quite the steal considering their normal prices. I chose the two-course set, with smoked salmon (appetizer) and steak with béarnaise sauce (main), with mashed potatoes (side). Oh my gosh. Heaven. Just wonderful. I often find French food too pretentious, but this was simply delicious.

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I’ve heard it gets quite crowded, but on a rainy summer Thursday night around midnight, my group of four was seated immediately. However, due to the rain we couldn’t check out the terrace, which I’ve heard has quite the view since the restaurant is located on the Bund and all. Quite pricey (I ended up paying about 250 RMB), but a fantastic ending to a girls’ night. All in all, a great special occasion or impress people place.

Mr & Mrs Bund
mmbund.com
Bund 18, 6/F, 18 Zhongshan East 1st Road
Huangpu District, Shanghai
Daily, 5:30 – 10:30 PM
Thursday to Saturday, 11 PM – 2 AM

mexican-ish brunch

I love me a good brunch. Ever since I lived in New York, I adore weekend brunches. It’s like breakfast, but punchier. It’s just one of those things you do. Anyhow, the other day I went to Mayita with friends (my first time there), and it was a pretty nice brunch spot. A bit fancy for my personal preference, but the food was good and very well plated.

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Oh, and the churros? Fried dough with sugar? Definitely count me in! The funniest thing was that the churros were listed on the menu as 墨西哥油条 (Mexican youtiao). And for anyone who’s had youtiao, while those are also fried dough, they’re soooooo not the same thing.

Mayita
6/F, 98 Shouning Road
Huangpu District, Shanghai
Daily, 5 PM – Late
Saturday and Sunday, 11 AM – 4 PM

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

k11 art mall. there’s art. in a mall.

The K11 Art Mall in Shanghai is an offshoot of Hong Kong’s K11 Art Mall, and though I think the Hong Kong one is more successful in its incorporation of art pieces … whatevs. It’s a mall. A MALL.

However artsy it is, the primary objective of a mall is to sell stuff (especially over-priced luxury stuff). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely knocking this art mall concept. It is great that it’s basically public art and you can wander around an he air-conditioned space and appreciate art without having to pay admission or venture way out into Pudong or the West Bund, but it’s still a mall. Perhaps it’s my prejudice against the archaic mall form (that’s led to ghost structures across America) or maybe I’m too idealistic, but I feel like the gaudy commercialism of a mall can’t help but tarnish fine art.

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Huang Kui, Boundless World (series)

Pretty, ain’t it? There is some nice art peppered throughout the floors, and it’s a bit like a treasure hunt trying to follow K11’s map and find all the pieces. Also, the mall does have a proper exhibition space in the basement, where there’s currently a Claude Monet exhibition that will close this Sunday. I haven’t gone and I doubt I will because A) the 100 RMB entrance fee is ridiculous for a single exhibition, B) I’ve seen Monet before so I’m good, and C) IT’S IN A MALL.

K11 Art Mall
shanghaik11.com
300 Middle Huaihai Road
Huangpu District, Shanghai
Daily, 10 AM – 10 PM

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

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

a dream i dreamed in the park

Today is March 29th, which means that tomorrow, MoCA’s exhibition will close. So of course I’m just now getting around to posting about the exhibition. ‘Cause I’m on top of things like that. The exhibition A Dream I Dreamed is a solo show by the really famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. And it was good. Lots of dots. Very playful. Though the 50 RMB ticket price seemed a bit steep and the waits were crazy, I definitely enjoyed myself … though would’ve had a better experience if there was more time and fewer people.

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With All My Love for the Tulips, I Pray Forever

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Narcissus Garden

The roof/top floor balcony of the museum was a nice spot for a break from the hustle of the floors below and Narcissus Garden worked well up there. Since MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) is located in People’s Park, there was a great view of the hazy Shanghai skyline and the surrounding park. This was easily one of my favorite moments of the exhibition because I love it when art interacts with architecture and the city, when there’s that sense of context and space. Plus, the stainless steel spheres are much more in line with my personal aesthetic.

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Obliteration Room

This room was like a nightmare for me. The exhibition started in December with Obliteration Room as a white space with white furnishings. Upon entering, you’re handed a sheet of stickers, which you can place anywhere. I like the interactive aspect of it, but I HATE STICKERS. Or rather I HATE (pressure-sensitive) ADHESIVE. If they’re firmly adhered and there’s no possibility that they would have to be removed later on or they’re loosely adhered to be easily removed (like drafting tape or price tags) – that’s fine. Stickers in that gray area of semi-permanence, that eventually start to peel up and leave that icky residue … ew ew ew.

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My Eternal Soul series

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Love Forever series

I felt that her flat works were much less successful. Strong use of color and line, but nowhere near as evocative as her more spatial works. These were just kind of eh and easily forgettable.

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Infinity Mirrored Room – Love Forever

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Dots Obsession

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Infinity Mirrored Room – Gleaming Lights of the Souls

Where Yayoi Kusama shines is in her installations. Color, light, and mirrors, oh my! Amazing. Very well thought out and constructed. My only complaint was having to queue up for so long for such a brief glimpse! It would be nice to go back and see some parts of the exhibition again (especially the Infinity Mirrored Rooms!), but the last days of an exhibition are always the worst and I really have no patience for some of these Chinese crowds. Factor in the cost and time as well, and I think I’ll have to pass. It was a very cool exhibition though, so if you haven’t had a chance to see it … make haste! I didn’t find it profound or awe-inspiring or anything lofty like that, it was just … fun. And sometimes that’s enough.

Kusama Yayoi: A Dream I Dreamed
December 15th, 2013 – March 30th, 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

bank … the gallery

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Geng Yini, Dreaming Luminous Pillow, 2013

A skip away from the Rockbund Art Museum is BANK, a gallery that was opened not too long ago by MABSOCIETY. The current show is Dystopia and Its Content(ment)s – 3 Solo Projects, and the space is divided between Marc Lafia’s Tumblrroom, Geng Yini’s Bad Form, and Ma Daha’s Everything which exists is a thought within the Mind of MA DAHA. Hm. I didn’t like any of it. It’s tricky making statements like that because although I found some of the work compelling and thought-provoking and I could appreciate it, I didn’t like it. I found most of it jarring, opaque, and awkward. I like things that I can read into, that I can look at for a long time and constantly discover new things – not necessarily visually, but conceptually and emotionally as well. Most of this stuff just seemed a bit thrown together.

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Geng Yini, Every Pain is Precious, 2013

I thought Geng Yini’s work was the most interesting and most well-developed, though I’m not a tremendous fan of her rough aesthetic. I found Marc Lafia’s work absolutely forgettable. And as for Ma Daha’s installation? Oh, now that was a doozy. A crazy I-have-no-words doozy.

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Ma Daha, Everything which exists is a thought within the Mind of MA DAHA, 2013

So yep. That’s BANK. But no, no, I can’t leave it at that. To me, Dystopia and Its Content(ment)s was a miss, but by no means am I suggesting you should skip it or write it off. Perhaps you’ll read something into it that I wasn’t able to grasp. After all, that is the allure of art – its openness. At a recent gallery opening one of the attendees was saying how he doesn’t ‘understand’ art. But I think that’s a common misconception. You’re not meant to ‘understand’ art, you’re supposed to enjoy it. I think it comes across as otherwise because the people who write about and work with art can get pretty crazy. My conclusion: Curators have incredible imaginations. We read things that aren’t there. We draw connections, we psychoanalyze our artists, and we shape exhibitions based on our interpretations, prejudices, and fancies. Just because we like art doesn’t mean we like all art – or ‘understand’ it.

Oh! And I almost forgot to mention the best thing about BANK – the space. The gallery space is nice, but the building it’s in is AMAZING. It’s a beautiful neoclassical heritage building, in a decided state of disrepair. The gallery is located on the second floor of the building (what they call the first floor due to using European conventions), but on the ground floor you can really see some of the neglect. It’s quite sad, but also kind of refreshing in comparison to the freshly-painted glitz and shoddy preservation jobs common to China. The building’s a bit forlorn, but in a way that makes it all the more breathtaking.

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BANK
1/F, 59 Xianggang Lu, Huangpu District, Shanghai
Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 AM – 6:30 PM