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
20 Huqiu Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai
Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 AM – 6 PM

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
20 Huqiu Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai
Tuesday to Sunday, 10 AM – 6 PM

bharti kher at the rockbund

Hm. I’m been quite neglectful with my posts about art, so here’s a bit about the art scene in Shanghai. The Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) is a stone’s throw from the gallery I work at, so I’ve been there quite a few times over the last few months. The current show is Bharti Kher: Misdemeanours, which will run until March 30th April 20th [exhibition extended]. And it’s pretty amazing.

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The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own, 2006

Bharti Kher is an English-born Indian artist (working mostly in sculpture), and although I’d never seen her stuff or heard of her before, I found the exhibition quite dramatic and thought-provoking. The highlight is most definitely the giant elephant, which is super nifty. I mean, it’s a giant elephant, how could it not be amazing? And on top of that, it’s covered in bindis … sperm-shaped bindis. A lot of her work refers to the female, nature, mythology, globalization, and so on, so bindis feature prominently in many of her works, as do maps, animals, and goddesses. Some very nice stuff, some kinda weird.

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What Can I Tell You That You Don’t Know Already?, 2013

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The Hot Wind that Blows from the West, 2011

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Not All Who Wander Are Lost, 2009-2010

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The Butcher, The Baker, the Candlestick Maker, 2008

My personal tastes tend to the clean, clear, and conceptual, so I especially liked the radiators (from New York!) and bricks (made from melted glass bangles). There were some maps covered in bindis near the revolving globes which were really cool, but I couldn’t get any good pictures due to the reflectiveness of the glass. But … there was one floor of photography and sculptures that was just … a bit disturbing.

This is Bharti Kher’s first solo exhibition in China, and it covers the entire six floors of the RAM. If you happen to use the subway in Shanghai, then you probably already know about it because there are billboards for it all over the stations. I’ve visited the exhibition three times, once for the opening, once for a talk, and once for a tour. The show runs for about another month, so if you’re in Shanghai, you should definitely go visit. Because it’s nifty. The Rockbund isn’t free, but it’s a drop in the bucket for what the exhibition is.

[Note: Some press material refers to the exhibition as Misdemeanors instead of the British spelling, but the catalogue uses Misdemeanours … so I’m including that extra letter, as annoying as it is.]

Bharti Kher: Misdemeanours
January 11th – March 30th April 20th, 2014

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