Melissa Chiu on ‘Generational Ruptures’ in Chinese Contemporary Art

Dr. Melissa Chiu gave a lecture titled “Art + Politics in Chinese Contemporary Art” as a part of the Daniel H. Silberberg Lecture Series on November 27th, traveling the few blocks between the IFA and her role as Museum Director and Senior Vice President of Global Arts and Cultural Programs at Asia Society. Chiu has published many books and articles within the field of Chinese contemporary art as well as the broader topic of Asian Contemporary Art. Her full lecture can be accessed via the IFA’s Vimeo page.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/54538281 w=500&h=281]

This year the Silberberg Lecture Series is focusing on “Violence as a matter of disciplinary concern.” Violence is a recurring theme within the history of art and its various manifestations help set the tone for the understanding of a period or a particular artist precisely because it is a thread of humanity that can be represented with such variety. Chiu’s lecture thus was an inquiry into the theme of violence in contemporary Chinese art. Continue reading “Melissa Chiu on ‘Generational Ruptures’ in Chinese Contemporary Art”

Professor Stanley Abe: “The Modern Moment of Chinese Sculpture” at the IFA

Buddha, Probably Amitabha (Amituo), Tang dynasty (618–907), early 7th century China, hollow dry lacquer with pigment and gilding, 38 x 27 x 22 1/2 inches (96.5 x 68.6 x 57.1 cm).
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

On January 31, 2012, Professor Stanley Abe gave a lecture entitled “The Modern Moment of Chinese Sculpture” as part of the Silberberg Lecture Series at the Institute of Fine Arts. Abe is an associate professor of art history at Duke University and has written extensively on Chinese Buddhist art, contemporary Chinese art, Asian American art, and the construction of art historical knowledge. His current research is on the movement of sculpture out of China in the early twentieth century, and his lecture on Wednesday drew on this project. Abe began his lecture by citing the introduction of the oft-quoted Art in China (1997) by Sinologist Craig Clunas: “’Chinese art’ is a quite recent invention, not much more than a hundred years old.” He pressed on, “The creation of ‘Chinese art’ in the nineteenth century allowed statements to be made about, and values to be ascribed to, a range of types of object.” This statement succinctly sums up what Abe’s lecture took to be its main argument, namely, that Chinese sculpture became a category of art in the latter half of the 19th century. Abe’s lecture traced the invention and development of Chinese sculpture as a class of art that sprung from the Modernist project of historicizing the past and recoding structures of knowledge surrounding Chinese art. Continue reading “Professor Stanley Abe: “The Modern Moment of Chinese Sculpture” at the IFA”

Song Dong and the “Wisdom of the Poor”

Song Dong, "Wisdom of the Poor," 2005. Image via UCCA.

The hutongs of Beijing have long been sites of informal gatherings, neighborly consideration, and thrifty consumption. With the urbanization of the city, however, acres of old neighborhoods once animated by these cramped streets have been demolished, uprooting communities and collapsing the silently constructed social ecosystems therein. Alongside the tendency toward individualization inherent in modernity, the destruction of family homes and the physical erasure of the past have led to an overwhelming sense of estrangement among the former residents of these well-worn streets. To preserve the memories of the hutongs and to celebrate the simple wisdom that sustained them, Song Dong filled the enormous space of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing with the bric-a-brac and portions of dilapidated wooden residences that he salvaged from his mother’s home and from other decaying sites of an endangered society. Continue reading “Song Dong and the “Wisdom of the Poor””

Revisiting China’s Grand Canal

Philipp Scholz Rittermann, "Overview, Night Fish Market, Grand Canal, Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China," 2010.
Image via Scott Nichols Gallery.
As integral sites of commerce and transportation in any city, the waterways and river-sea routes of Yuan and Ming Beijing have been a major point of discussion in Professor Hay’s colloquium. Stretching for more than 1,000 miles, China’s Grand Canal is the oldest and largest canal ever built. Commissioned during the Wu Dynasty in 486 B.C.E., the canal underwent several stages of expansion and repair well into the reign of the Ming emperor Yongle in the 15th century. It functioned to ferry grain taxes from the south to the imperial seat in the north as well as to facilitate the shipment of goods and raw materials for the construction of temples, palaces and gardens. The Grand Canal was equally important in connecting the fairly landlocked city of Beijing to the maritime trade routes of the sea to the east. With 24 locks and some 60 bridges, the canal currently connects Beijing in the north and Hangzhou in the south. Continue reading “Revisiting China’s Grand Canal”

Chen Lianqing’s Forbidden City

Chen Lianqing, "Flooding in the Forbidden City II," 2006, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 250 cm. Image via Yan Gallery.
Chen Lianqing (b. 1967, Chongqing, China) creates highly polished, often humorous paintings of culturally significant monuments and buildings submerged in water. Using a limited palette of grey, red, and the occasional pop of orange, his work limns a response to the natural and man-made disasters that have scarred the Chinese landscape in recent years. Born and educated in Sichuan province near the Yangzi in southwest China, Chen had a childhood shaped by the river’s seasonal flooding, the regular immersion of buildings, and the quiet leisure of workers relaxing along and in the river waters. Unfortunately, with the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in 1994, his family was forced to relocate along with thousands of others, effectively washing away the setting of Chen’s youth. In a thoughtful and technically accomplished artistic riposte, Chen submerged in dark grey waters the most iconic architectural manifestation of political power and control in China – the Forbidden City in Beijing.  Continue reading “Chen Lianqing’s Forbidden City”

Zhang Dali’s Dialogue with Beijing

Zhang Dali, Dialogue: Forbidden City, Beijing, 1999. Chromogenic color print, 23 11/16 x 35 9/16 in. Image via The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Since 1995, Zhang Dali has been attempting to communicate with the city of Beijing through graffiti. Though the conversational efficacy of his work is up for debate, the signs of his instigations still litter the streets, crumbling walls and hutongs (the ubiquitous narrow alleyways) of Beijing. They are spray painted silhouettes of a bald-headed man, often accompanied by his tag “AK-47” or hollowed out to reveal a striking scene of a city that is in a constant state of construction, preservation and demolition. Zhang explains his work in this way: “This image is a condensation of my own likeness as an individual. It stands in my place to communicate with this city. I want to know everything about this city- its state of being, its transformation, its structure.” Continue reading “Zhang Dali’s Dialogue with Beijing”

Stay Tuned for the Green Beijing Series

The CAC blog is excited to introduce a new series of posts revolving around Professor Jonathan Hay’s current Green Beijing colloquium at the Institute. A collaborative effort led by current MA candidate Elizabeth Lee, this series will be posted regularly for the duration of the Fall 2011 semester, beginning on November 14.

Zhang Dali Demolition: Forbidden City, Beijing, 1998, chromogenic color print, 35 9/16 x 23 11/16" (90.3 x 60.1 cm). Image via The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The site of current day Beijing has seen its fair share of change. From Mongol pleasure palace to bustling Han metropolis, the city and the people who populated it have existed in a state of flux for centuries. In Professor Jonathan Hay’s Fall 2011 Green Beijing colloquium, we are focusing on the 15th century in an attempt to recreate the Ming dynasty capital in all its urban (and surprisingly verdant) glory. Through the surviving pieces of the imperial palace (aka the Forbidden City), the temples, and the surrounding parks and lakes, we are inching slowly toward an understanding of the various levels of symbolism encoded within the urban landscape of Ming Beijing. The ideological and experiential dimensions of Ming Beijing are further colored by student-led cross-cultural comparisons with cities like Angkor, Delhi, and Kyoto. While the colloquium attempts to build a vision of Beijing rooted in the past, this blog is an effort to pull the discussion closer to our own time.

By listing and discussing some contemporary artworks that deal with the historical sites we investigate—for example, the Temple of Heaven, Beihai, Beijing’s “seas,” and the city’s hutongs—we hope to create a dialogue between Ming Beijing and the Chinese capital of the 21st century.

On the Horizon: Asian Contemporary Art Week

ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK is coming up in New York!  The title of the program is a bit of a misnomer, as the event spans from March 21 through March 31, 2011.  Engaging both galleries and museums in the New York area, the ACAW features a broad range of public programs, including artist talks, gallery openings and receptions, lectures, performances and, of course, plenty of art exhibitions.  Check out the full program schedule at their superbly organized and user-friendly website.

The ACAW is particularly well-timed to coincide with a course taught this spring by Wu Hung on Contemporary Chinese Art. Professor Wu is the IFA’s Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor and one of the foremost scholars on traditional and contemporary Chinese art.  I will be attending the following event at the Guggenheim on 3/29/2011 (note the “free for students”) and anyone interested is welcome to meet up at the IFA around 6 PM on Tuesday to walk over together:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm at the Guggenheim Museum

Liu Xiaodong in Conversation

A screening of the new Liu Xiaodong documentary film by famed Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien, followed by a conversation with the artist and Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator of Asian Art at the Guggenheim Museum. Co-sponsored by Mary Boone Gallery.

$10; $7 for Guggenheim members; free for students

1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street)
Tel: 212-423-3500
www.guggenheim.org