Mixing the works of art world superstars like Ai Wei Wei and Zhang Huan with the creations of unknown artists, 28 Chinese opens our senses to China’s booming contemporary art scene. 48 diverse and invariably striking works from 28 contemporary Chinese artists range from painting and installation to photography and new media including video.
The impact is powerful, provocative, exciting and great fun. . . a feast for the senses and a testament to the collaboration between the collectors, Don and Mera Rubell, and guest curator Allison Harding.
At a recent press preview, Harding spoke of her first look at the Rubell collection in Miami, and how struck she was by the collectors’ sense of connectedness with the artists.
“I was blown away by the works themselves – their monumentality and power – but also how the artists were represented on their own terms, with no forced overarching umbrella.”
She returned, pondering how to replicate the experience. Clearly, her vision pleased the Rubells, who feel the exhibition unfolds with humor, surprise and sensitivity.
Although Mera Rubell says that all art flows like a river of civilization, she notes that in today’s educational system in China, there is a dichotomy between the teaching of traditional and contemporary art.
She points to Boat (2012) by Zhu Jinshi as an example of fusing the two in an elegant way. The monumental installation, 40 feet long, is a highlight of the exhibition and the largest artwork the museum has installed. Made from 8,000 sheets of Chinese calligraphy paper, which overlap bamboo rods suspended from the ceiling with cotton thread, Boat offers the possibility of a “symbolic journey” to those who walk through the structure.
Zhu Jinshi says that this work is his attempt to “infinitely extend every moment,” using the movement of a boat – and its ability to go in any direction in the water – as an analogy for the extension of time and experience.
Museum goers interact with He Xiangyu’s The Man on the Chair (2008-2009), a grove of 11 chairs in the museum’s South Court made from abandoned wooden aqueduct pipes that the artist collected in southwest China. While the artist’s use of discarded wood calls attention to nature’s transformation through cycles of decay and regeneration, visitors seem to find the chairs an idyllic place for texting while sitting!
Many Bay Area fans who visited the dramatic @Large: Ai Wei Wei on Alcatraz, which closed on April 26, will be interested in his two works Table with Two Legs (2008) and Ton of Tea (2005). In the latter, he compresses one ton of tea leaves into one cubic meter. The compressed tea alludes to China’s trade history, while the sculptural form is associated with American minimalism.
There’s much food for thought as well as great pleasure to be garnered from a visit to 28 Chinese, on exhibit at the Asian Art Museum through August 16, 2015.
Visit the website for hours and other information as well as to view the programming that deepens the experience of a visit to 28 Chinese.
28 Chinese kicks off a summer of contemporary art. It will be followed on September 4 with the opening of First Look: Collecting Contemporary at the Asian, an original exhibition showcasing more than 40 contemporary artworks in the museum’s collection.