Fan of Liu Xiaodong
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