ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries’ Exhibition
Features Works by Leading Chinese Artists
Some of the superstars of the contemporary Chinese art market are represented in “Portal: Contemporary Chinese Paintings, Prints, Photographs and Sculpture,” at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries.
The dozen artists in this show, the gallery’s fourth exhibition of Chinese artists since 2007, include Zhang Xiaogang, Wang Guangyi, and Feng Zhengjie, whose works have sold in the multi-million dollar range.
One of the most prominent works in the exhibition is a four-and-a-half foot serigraph by Zhang Xiaogang, from his well-known “Big Family Series” of images. Inspired by the Chinese tradition of formally posed family photographs, Zhang’s “Big Family” implies the wider community of Chinese collectivism. Some of his subjects are individualized by birthmarks or other small differences, just as his countrymen, once constrained into official conformity, now flaunt their personalities.
Wang Guangyi grew up during the Maoist era, when the only accessible art was propaganda promoting the government and its policies. When the Cultural Revolution ended and China's economy shifted into the global marketplace, luxury brands demanded by the country's burgeoning newly affluent spawned Western-style advertising campaigns.
Consolidating the two preponderant visual influences during his lifetime, Wang combines images from the propaganda posters contrasted with international brand names, such as BMW or Rolex, often with the enigmatic word "No" added. Although critics are uncertain about its artistic intent, the "No" and implicit tension between Maoist and consumer imagery suggest the conflict between an idealized proletariat and Western luxury products. Three of his “Great Criticism” series limited-edition lithographs are included in the show.
Feng Zhengjie’s wild-eyed contemporary portraits of western-styled women, represented by three serigraphs rendered in traditionally symbolic colors of red and green, also are instantly recognized by those familiar with the contemporary Chinese art scene. Sometimes viewed as critical of China’s ravenous appetite for luxury goods, the artist feels that “the influence of the Western culture sometimes makes our women appear as hybrids.”
The multimedia artist Huang Yan superimposes Chinese landscape scenes on photos of faces and the human body, a fusion of a traditional art form and contemporary performance art that every Chinese can relate to. The exhibition includes three of his limited edition archival inkjet and silkscreen prints and a 44-inch chromogenic print diptych of a painted nude in a pine tree, an edition of only eight. The Museum of Modern Art in New York recently acquired two of his photos, presently being exhibited on its third floor show, “Staging Action: Performance in Photography since 1960.”
Works by Wang, Zhang, Feng and Huang are in the Sigg Collection, widely considered the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of contemporary Chinese art. The first three artists also were included in "Mahjong," an important exhibition held in 2009 at the University of California's Berkeley Art Museum, as well as the current "101 Artworks—A Stroll through the Sigg Collection" at 88MOCCA, the Museum of Chinese Contemporary Art on the Web. Both shows were compiled from SIGG Collection artworks.
Three silkscreen prints by Guo Wei focus on one of his favorite subjects, preadolescents. His work is seen as emphasizing the development of individualism in China since the government-imposed homogenization of the Cultural Revolution.
Sui Jianguo, referred to as "a leading figure of China's New Sculpture movement" in the "China Onward" catalog of the renowned Estella Collection, draws attention "to the political and economic system behind the toy industry" through his "Made in China" series, here represented by two-foot red and silver signs and three 33-inch tall dinosaurs. Sui views his dinosaurs as parallels to much of the world's manufacturing: designed in the West, made in China, and then exported globally—not unlike Chinese contemporary art, inspired by Western traditions.
Along with sculpture by Sui, artworks by Zhang, Wang, Feng, Huang, and Guo also are represented in the renowned Estella Collection of Chinese Contemporary Art, first exhibited at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark in 2007.
Two large-scale paintings in the “Portal” show are by Cao Xiaodong and Lu Peng, artists featured in previous gallery exhibitions. Cao, forced to become a graphic artist during the Cultural Revolution, renders his paintings in Ben Day dots reminiscent of the screens for printing old newspaper photos. This painting shows Mao Zedong surrounded with Playboy “bunnies,” contrasting the icon of the Cultural Revolution with symbols of the West’s sexual revolution.
Like many of the leading Chinese artists, Lu, whose predominantly red six-and-a-half foot canvas dominates one gallery wall, likes to combine ancient symbols with contemporary icons. Undated but believed to have been completed in 2006, this painting typifies his complex compositions of falling—or flying—nudes surrounded by a chaotic mass of banners, signs, ornaments, official functionaries and jet planes.
Two archival inkjet prints with silkscreened elements, one depicting Marilyn Monroe, are from Yang Qian’s "Bathroom" series, images viewed through a mist of water drops. Suggesting the overlapping of reality and illusion, this series sometimes is categorized as "dual paintings."
Another archival inkjet print, “Hero #2,” is by Ling Jian, a widely exhibited artist best known for his portraits of beautiful and sometimes provocative young women. This work is of a handsome young man, his features superimposed by cloud-like streaks, evoking a dreamlike reality to the portrait.
Chen Qingqing, noted for her use of natural materials in her sculpture, wove two delicate golden plant forms into the thread-thin beige fibers forming “Fragrant Pillow.” Airy as cotton candy, its pale monochromatic hue is set off by scattered quarter-inch bits of reddish-brown leaves, an altogether fairy-like structure that appears to float within its plexiglass enclosure. The artist also is known for her feminist-themed performance art.
Another sculpture, “Memory Chair,” is a 45-inch throne with a stainless steel back and plexiglass seat topped by a wooden horn. Its creator is Yang Fan, a young sculptor whose sense of humor is apparent in this work.
“Portal” will be on exhibit until the end of May at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Greater Miami's longest-established contemporary fine art gallery, now in its 37th year. The gallery is located at 169 Madeira Avenue, in the business district of downtown Coral Gables.
A virtual tour of the exhibition and highlights of the gallery's introduction of historically significant artists and art movements to this region and to the nation is at www.virginiamiller.com
For further information, please call 305-444-4493.