shades of grey and gray

Calm your fluttering little hearts, I’m not about to go into a discussion about that smutty little novel-turned-film. No, instead I’m going to talk about spelling and one particularly annoying variant between British English and American English: the difference between grey and gray.

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Yang Yongliang (杨泳梁), From the New World (来自新大陆) (detail), 2014

If you check the dictionary, it’ll probably list ‘grey’ as chiefly British and ‘gray’ as chiefly American. So … what of those who use both? I am a proud American English user and use the American spellings of color (v. colour), organization (v. organisation), traveled (v. travelled), inquiry (v. the inquiry/enquiry divide), and meter (v. metre). Oh, and the last letter of the alphabet? That’s a ‘zee’, not ‘zed’.

But ya know what? I use both ‘grey’ and ‘gray’. I also use both ‘theatre’ and ‘theater’ – although for different things. The stage ends in ‘-re’ and cinema is ‘-er’ – a distinction that I’m not alone in making. Yet when I use both ‘grey’ and ‘gray’, drawing a difference between ‘gray’ for a warmer hue and ‘grey’ for a cooler/lighter/steelier/bluer variant, suddenly I’m a complete weirdo. Am I? Really now? I checked on the web and there are others who think like me. Then again, on the internet you’re bound to find someone who agrees with you.

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Pang Yun (庞云), Portrait of Trees No. 3 (树的肖像3) (detail), 2014

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Li Jinghu (李景湖), Sea Breeze (海风) (detail), 2009

In general, I use the spelling ‘gray’ to describe the colors on a ‘grayscale’. I fully realize that I am in the minority with my double usage of theatre/theater and that I am practically alone on a deserted island for grey/gray, so as a rule, if I’m writing something official or for publication (peer-reviewed, academic, in print, or must conform to CMOS), then I only use ‘gray’ and ‘theater’ for the sake of consistency and not confusing everyone with my non-standard spelling distinctions. But I guess this duality is what happens when you study so much (British) English that both end up feeling quite natural. Although serial commas are a must.

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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!

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

animals

Animals. They’re everywhere. I’ve never been much of an animal person.

  • BEAR: Sculpture by Eladio (dEmo) de Mora. DUMBO area of Brooklyn, New York. September 2012.
  • TURTLE: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. November 2012.
  • COW: Elephanta Island, Mumbai, India. January 2013.
  • CHICKEN: “The Chicken” by Chaïm Soutine, 1926. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. April 2007.
  • LION: Ulysses S. Grant Memorial (with United States Capitol in background), Washington, D.C. November 2012.
  • SHEEP: Near tomb of Xu Guangqi (Paul Siu), Guangqi Park, Shanghai, China. January 2011.

back in h-town: rothko chapel

Last week I posted about the Menil Collection, so of course I now need to talk about the little Rothko Chapel as well! It’s a block away from the Menil and was commissioned by the same Dominique and John de Menil, but the last time I visited it was probably around 10 years ago. While the Rothko Chapel is technically a chapel … it doesn’t really feel/seem like a chapel other than the atmosphere inside. It’s actually more of a mini gallery of Mark Rothko’s paintings.

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Er … this cat is not the Rothko Chapel. But he (or she?) was hanging out in front of it, so I just had to take a photo. But hmm … it doesn’t look very happy at having its picture taken. The Rothko Chapel itself is a bit … odd. Okay, very odd. It’s modern architecture (courtesy of American architect Philip Johnson), so whatever. The exterior is brick and the main interior is an octagonal space with 14 large black paintings (that aren’t completely solid black, but still essentially black) on the walls and some benches. Its skylight is baffled, probably because they realized light was bad for the paintings and the dimness of the space now is kinda nice.

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At the Menil, there are a few Mark Rothko paintings that are essentially extras for the Rothko Chapel. That was pretty interesting. In the Rothko Chapel, the large format of the paintings and the darkness of their hues, organized around the perimeter of the very regular and dim space, created a heavy, serene environment that felt safe to be in. But in addition to the front desk/receptionist guy, there were two people monitoring the main space, and  for a such a small space it seemed overkill. When I entered, there was one woman sitting quietly on a bench, but a group of tourists (with a baby!) entered shortly after, and they were not in there for silent contemplation.

I know museum guards and watchful volunteers are necessary to prevent vandalism, which is an unfortunate statement on today’s society … but it’s hard to appreciate a space when it’s made to feel like a prison with someone always watching you. And it’s great that more people going out and appreciating art and architecture … but it’s annoying when they don’t offer the deserved respect. If I could have the Rothko Chapel to myself, now that would be nice. But as it is and despite my love of chapels and churches and cathedrals, I doubt I’ll be visiting it again any time soon … unless I’m bored. Then, maybe.