Saturday, October 04, 2008

Fan of Liu Xiaodong

"Hot Bed" by Liu Xiaodong, b. 1963

I can't believe
I took a whole Saturday morning
to run down to the Smart Museum
to see their exhibit of 4 contemporary Chinese artists called
"Displacement: The Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese Art"

I don't even like contemporary Chinese art
-- and wish I could find more
contemporaries working in the traditional styles
of brush painting and calligraphy.

Like the following 450" mulberry paper scroll
that was in this exhibit:

detail from "Water Rising" by Yun-Fei Ji, 1963

But, frankly, I was bored with it.

Nice, pleasant narrative illustration but...
not enough kick to give up a Saturday morning.

Here's some more of his work.

Two of the other Chinese artists on exhibit,
Chen Qiulin and Zhuang Hui,
are in the conceptual artworld
so they have no interest to me.

The Smart Museum also hauled out
two historic scrolls from the A.I.C.'s collection,
from the Xuan and Ming dynasties,
each depicted the catastrophes
of great floods -- but they were
no more than adequate narratives
(though the museum kept them such darkness,
I'm not sure how they might appear
in a good, strong light)

but Liu Xiaodong - wow! - what a painter.

It's hard to tell from these small images
(shown here on the site where the painting was begun)

The panels are 102" high,
and all together they're 393" long

Here's the models (itinerant laborers) on site
posing for the painting.

That's something else that so much fun about the exhibit --
it's accompanied by a video of the artist at work,
wandering around the site,
showing off his kung-fu with a few bricks,
posing the models,
and beginning his painting

Here he is at work.

And he also gave a little talk
about how his maturity
allows him to feel
the vibrant energy
in each person he meets.

and that energy is exactly what
his painting is showing.

He's painting energy -- not bodies

and as you can see -- some of these guys
are handsome young dudes.

(it's hard to tell from these small pictures,
and unfortunately close-up views
of his intense paint work
are not available on the internet)

Here's a larger view of the two left panels.
The panels were begun side-by-side
but obviously were finished separately
(the color of the sky is different in each panel)

And here you can also see
the painter's emphasis
on these guy's packages.

These are manly men,
and the composition
emphasizes that point.

Here's another view of the models on site

And here's a view of the artist
working at another site
on another enormous painting.

Is painting on site just a stunt
to make good publicity photos ?

Well -- it certainly serves that purpose
and I'll bet Liu Xiaodong is as excited about
being an entrepreneur as all
his generation born during the Cultural Revolution.

But.... I think it also gives his work a sense of

It takes the viewer to the actual place
out in the world
not just to an artist's studio.

I could feel the hot sun burning
in his "Hot Bed" painting,
smell their sweat,
and hear them jabbering away
in tongues I could not understand.

And I was dazed by the enormity
of change in the Middle Kingdom.

Yes, I've become a fan of Liu Xiaodong.
I would never want to live with one
his works - they're too noisy,
but like a good film, I'd like to
see them occasionally.

Here's his website.

Here's a review from NewCity


Anonymous sculptique said...

Masterful scroll....the one from the Art Institute. Splendid beyond belief. Worth travelling to Chicna if need be not just to Hyde Park.

Balance, symmetry and expressivnessssssssss not just line and form, but subtle color. I wanted to jump into the scroll and help pulll animals across raging waters, breast feed babies while purched on beasts of burden. Delve into the placement of each figure, expression in faces, tension created thru flow of line. Complete vignettes with in the larger story.---each a masterpiece within the whole. Simple, intense, simple instense. See it.Live within it.

Videos---a dance, a trance in the rubble, a funeral for a way of life, a celebration of the past. A fitting memorial to one milllion displaced for the damn dam. A holocaust of nature.

October 19, 2008  
Blogger chris miller said...

Believe it or not - but Sculptique and I were actually viewing the same show! (on the same day!)

It's just that I got so excited about Liu Xiaodong, I couldn't think much about anything else.

Someday -- eventually - those two ancient scrolls will be shown by the A.I.C. (who owns them)

And that's when I've give them another look.

October 19, 2008  

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