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This article by Elaine Strauss was prepared for the July 14, 2004
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Illuminating a Changing China
China is on the front burner. Every business leader eyes her billion
people as a profitable market. With her wealth catching up on her
venerable history, diplomats prepare for her increasing clout.
Demographers and sociologists document the growing pains inflamed by
the Chinese shift to the cities. American shoppers find Chinese
products unavoidable. And no less than six venues in Manhattan
recognize China’s importance through photographic exhibits scattered
throughout the city.
The International Center of Photography (ICP) has collaborated with
the Asia Society (AS) to assemble a high-profile show, "Between Past
and Future: New Photography and Video from China." A single ticket
admits holders to both ICP, on Sixth Avenue, and to AS, on Park
Avenue. In New York until Sunday, September 5, the show consists of
130 works by 60 Chinese artists, many of whom are seen for the first
time in the United States. After closing in New York the exhibition
travels to Chicago, Seattle, London, Berlin, and Santa Barbara.
The exhibit is as much a window into Chinese society as an expression
of artistic sensibilities. The memories of the artists whose work is
on display go back to the failed 1989 demonstration for democracy that
culminated in the killing of thousands in Tiananmen Square. The
government continues to worry about excessive self expression in the
media, on the Internet, and through cell phones.
Still, the artists included in the show display a certain freedom.
Wang Qingsong parodies a 10th century scroll about a disappointed
government official who finds a new life in the company of concubines.
Wang’s updated version is a panorama honoring a contemporary editor
who dared to defy a repressive government; scantily dressed women
replace the ancient concubines. The five episodes of the 31-foot long
image, "Night Revels of Lao Li," read like a comic book, with the same
characters reappearing in successive scenes. Wang’s version of the
scroll includes such basics of life in China today as a cell phone, a
guitar, Coke bottles, and heavy eye shadow.
Departing from the Communist advocacy of socialist realism, two large
scale autobiographical mixed-media pieces greet the visitor at the
entry level of ICP. Lin Tianmiao’s "Braiding" is a 12-foot tall image
of herself strewn with many small protuberances. From the back of each
protuberance hangs a thread. The threads have been braided together
into a tapering form that makes the work interesting to view from
back, as well as front. Set among the fine threads in which the braid
terminates is a video showing hands making the braid. The soft,
diffuse portrait contrasts with the solid braid that emanates from it.
Using 10 pairs of identical handmade cotton shoes, Yin Xiuzhen
provides a pictorial autobiography by sewing photos of herself from
age one (1964) to age 35 (1998) into the black footwear. She seems to
balance the combination of stability and change by inserting
constantly variable photographs into the unvaried cotton shoes.
"Between Past and Future" primarily comments about living in China.
Its artists are unhappy. While they might have thought of government
as the source of their woes 15 years ago, their unhappiness has been
deflected onto urban life. Characteristic urban architecture, big,
bleak and featureless, is described in one word-panel as "vertical
sprawl," and many of the works in the show capture its stultifying
uniformity. Artists protest the anonymity and alienation of the
cities. An angry pessimism prevails.
Song Dong’s video, "Crumpling Shanghai," shows multiple clips of the
city, each of which ends with a hand destroying the final image. In a
conceptual piece artist Hu Jieming constructs a small maze that
reaches from almost ceiling-height to the level of the observer’s
knees. The work consists of clear plastic sheets that might have been
shower curtains in another life. Imposed on the see-through plastic
are black and white images approaching 12 inches across; they appear
to be derived from still television or movie frames, or unmounted 35
millimeter transparencies. Observers enter the maze and wander among
the passageways of the piece. Simultaneously the observer experiences
a filtered connection to the world outside, and a separation from it.
Emerging from the maze depends on how many wrong turns one takes. The
museum guard outside reports that sometimes people get lost.
Several images give second-hand accounts of performance art, which, by
its nature, could not be included in the show. Song Dong’s "Water
Seal" consists of multiple prints that show the artist in the Lhasa
River in Tibet, repeatedly stamping the flowing water with an old seal
bearing the Chinese character for water. Without attempting to exhaust
the possible interpretations of the work, one can perceive it is an
exercise in futility, or as distinguishing between the meaning of a
word and its physical form.
Irony appears in Rong Rong’s "Trampling the Face," a visual report of
Cang Xin’s arranging 1,500 casts of a face on his courtyard floor in
order to give visitors a chance to demolish the objects by walking on
them. Cang Xin explained, "My decision to destroy the masks was based
on the realization that a damaged image could better convey the idea
of perfection and beauty than a perfect and beautiful image." More
puzzling than "Trampling the Face" is Sun Yuan’s "Shepherd," which
records 200 recently slaughtered sheep in a snow-covered field.
Among the photographs included for their own sake, there is a
remarkable absence of decisive moments, sympathetic portraits,
playfulness, and beauty. Liu Zheng’s portraits are devoted to
individuals on the far ends of society: two rich men celebrate New
Year’s Eve in Beijing; three professional mourners grieve at a country
Color, when used, tends to be harsh. Liu Jian’s satirical "I Love
McDonald’s" is typical. The piece is unusual in its humor. Consisting
of six manipulated versions of a single image, the separate versions
of the image are distinguished from each other by the quirky
variations that have been imposed on the hair and headgear of the
customers delighting in the fast food.
The subtle color shadings of Sze Tsung Leong’s series, "Huashishang
Fourth Lane, Chongwen District, Beijing," are an oasis amid the
intensity of hue in most of the show. The partly-demolished old houses
in the foreground are more inviting than the new construction behind
Zhang Dali does Leong one better in "Demolition: World Financial
Center, Beijing," a set of images with a common compositional scheme.
Zhang went to the building site and sprayed bold graffiti-like heads
on the old walls about to be destroyed. With a chisel he created an
opening within the graffiti. Through the opening new construction is
visible. His images invite extended consideration because of their
combination of visual and intellectual content. Zhang’s palette is
similar to Leong’s. The rosy brick of the doomed old buildings
contrasts with the faint blue of the new structures. The contrast
makes a sociological point. In addition, seeing both old and new
through the eye of Leong’s graffiti head gives a sense of history.
One single work in the ICP shows brings a lyrical sensitivity to the
preoccupation with China’s urbanization. In a black and white video 14
minutes long Yang Fudong juxtaposes a man from the city and a
traditional fisherwoman, and gives vent to his sense of beauty. The
veiled fisherwoman guides an urban visitor clad in white into her
boat. Their clothing is a metaphor for their contrasting worlds and
perceptions. They rarely look at each other, and they never speak.
However, they engage in related tasks; she poles the boat, he rows;
she cooks, he helps. Both are enveloped in the serenity of nature.
The landscape has a pared-down simplicity; mountains break the
horizon; reeds touched by the wind barely move; the water ripples in
slow motion. The tempo of the piece introduces the viewer to
timelessness. The sporadic English text must have been written by
someone familiar with haiku. "The reed flowers on the west hill have
bloomed," it begins. Unobtrusive music enhances the mood. Yang has
made a hypnotic video. During the time I was nearby, visitors who sat
down on the bench to view it stayed for many minutes.
I found a special importance in Yang’s piece. Perhaps my reception of
it was skewed by the comfort I drew from it. In an ocean of
provocative and disturbing items, this was an island of calm. Maybe
there’s a metaphor here: surrounded by instability and unattractive
change, it is still possible to discover a beauty that balances the
undesirable. Yet, Yang’s piece was the only one of its type.
Overwhelmingly, the artists of "Between Past and Future" have given
physical form to their critical reactions in a changing society. The
show is not pretty, but it is compelling.
– Elaine Strauss
Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China,
presented jointly at the International Center of Photography and the
Asia Society and Museum June 11 to September 5.
International Center of Photography, 1133 Avenue of the Americas at
43rd Street, New York, 212-857-0000. Gallery is open Tuesday-Thursday
10a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday until 8 p.m.,and Saturday and Sunday until 6
Asia Society and Museum, 725 Park Avenue at 70th Street, NY,
212-288-6400. Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.,
with extended evening hours Fridays until 9 p.m.
Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street,
609-921-6748. "Lost Princeton," an exhibit that explores lost
businesses and houses. The historic house also houses a long-term
exhibition about Princeton history highlighting the Native American
occupation, the Revolutionary War, and Princeton in the 19th and 20th
centuries. Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Free
Nili Chernikoff Photography Exhibit, Princeton Jewish Center, 435
Nassau Street, 609-921-0100. "Dichotomies: Israel 2001-2002," a
photography exhibit by Ewing resident Nili Chernikoff. Sale from
photographs benefits the Jewish Center. Gallery is open Tuesday to
Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday until 3 p.m.; and Sunday from 9
a.m. to 1 p.m. Closed Saturdays. On view through July 18.
Handmade Paper and Print Making, Hills Gallery, 195 Nassau Street,
609-252-0909. "Where the East Meets the West: America and the Asian
Influences in the Art of handmade Paper and Print Making." Princeton
artist Margaret Kennard Johnson, and Japanese artists Katsunori
Hamanishi and Yoshikatsu Tamekane. Extended to July 15.
Exhibit of Evelyn Kammerman’s sculptures of abstract forms of Colorado
and Mexican alabaster, white and blue marble, and bronze. They range
in size from 15 to 24 inches. Through July 16. Open Tuesday to Friday,
11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Last Dynasty, Dynasty Arts, 20 Nassau Street, Unit F, 609-688-9388.
The recently opened Chinese antique and art gallery features a
silk-screen series, "Last Dynasty," oil and watercolor, and limited
edition prints. Artist and owner, Lu Zuogeng, combines Chinese
brushwork with Western watercolor. Also, Chinese antique furniture of
Ming and Qing dynasties. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday,
11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
The Williams Gallery, 6 Olden Lane, 609-921-1142. "Digital Magic"
features lithographs by Japanese print maker and computer artist
Susumu Endo. Viewings by appointment through July 31.
Jim Hilgendorf and Coleen Marks, Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street,
Hopewell, 609-333-8511. "The 29 Stations of the Yamanote Line" by Jim
Hilgendorf, and "Windows & Walls," by Coleen Marks. Both artists
feature classic street photography around the world. Gallery hours are
Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment. Through July
Gold Medal Impressions, 43 Princeton Hightstown Road, West Windsor,
609-606-9001. Newly-expanded gallery of photographer Richard Druckman,
a freelance photographer for Associated Press. Six rooms and over 250
photographs of professional football, basketball, hockey, tennis, and
Olympic events. Photographs for sale are matted and framed and in a
variety of sizes and prices. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cranbury in Cartoon, Cranbury Inn Restaurant, 21 South Main Street,
Cranbury, 609-655-5595. Paintings of Cranbury with a cartoon-like look
and feel by Plainsboro artist Robert Hummel. Picture Brainerd Lake
with sailboats in the water and cotton ball shaped clouds hovering
overhead. Lobby gallery open every day, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Through July
Urban Horizons, Grounds For Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton,
609-586-0616. Exhibit features paintings by Philadelphia artist
Charlotte Schatz and sculpture by Janet Indick. Both represent their
personal interpretation of industrial representation. Gallery hours
are Tuesday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. In the Toad Hall Shop and
Gallery through September 26.
Conspicuous Collection, Peggy Lewis Gallery, Lambertville Public
Library, 6 Lilly Street, 609-397-0275. An exhibit of favorite pieces
from the 50 year collection of Michael and Peggy Lewis. The couple
began collecting in 1945 with a penchant for outsider art and works of
local artists. Gallery hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, 1 to 9
p.m.; Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday 1 to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10
a.m. to 5 p.m. Through August 7.
25th Gala Celebration Exhibition, Trenton Artists Workshop
Association, Artworks Gallery, 19 Everett Alley, Trenton,
609-394-9436. "The 25th Gala Celebration Anniversary Exhibition"
focuses on 60 TAWA members art work of paintings, sculptures, and
photographs. Gallery open Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. On
exhibit through September 12.
Native to Neo: Mexican Folk Arts from Oaxaca, Wheaton Village, 1501
Glasstown Road, Millville, 856-825-6800. Four-month project devoted to
the arts and crafts from Oaxaca, Mexico and the first exhibition in
the new Creative Community Connections Series, an initiative to
understand and embrace cultural diversity. Through November 12.
Princeton University Art Museum, 609-258-3788. Medieval, Renaissance,
and baroque galleries are closed until the end of summer for painting,
cleaning, and a major reinstallation. They will reopen on Friday,
August 20. The museum’s lower galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday,
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Tours are given on
Saturdays at 2 p.m.
Bible Exhibition, Princeton University, Firestone Library,
609-258-3184. "The Bible in English: Before and After the Hampton
Court Conference, 1604, marks the 400th anniversary of an important
event in the history of the English Bible. Exhibit hours are weekdays,
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday evenings, 5 to 8 p.m.; and weekends, noon
to 5 p.m. Through August 8.
Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hopewell Campus, 609-252-5120. Outdoor sculpture
show features works by seven prominent East Coast artists: Hope Carter
of Hopewell, Kate Dodd, Richard Heinrich, John Isherwood, Joel
Perlman, John Van Alstine, and Jay Wholley. Exhibition is on view
during business hours and will remain in its location for two years.
The artists were selected by a panel composed of Alejandro Anreus,
veteran curator and scholar, Jeffrey Nathanson of the International
Sculpture Center, and visual artist Sheba Sharrow, working under the
guidance of Kate Somers, curator of the company’s corporate gallery in
Annual Watercolor Exhibition, Garden State Watercolor Society, Capital
Health System, 446 Bellevue Avenue, Trenton, 856-596-7747. Garden
State Watercolor Society presents its 35th annual members’ exhibition
to promote watercolor painting. Gallery hours are Sunday through
Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Through July 16.
Edward Bekkerman, Abud Family Foundation for the Arts, 3100 Princeton
Pike, Building 4, Third Floor, Lawrenceville, 609-896-0732. Exhibition
of paintings, "Dreams," by Edward Bekkerman. The Abud Family
Foundation for the Arts was established in 2002 to promote primarily
Ibero-American art in all its forms. Gallery open Thursday to
Saturday, 3 to 6 p.m. Through July 16.
E.M. Adams Gallery, 440 Union Square Drive, New Hope, 215-862-5667.
New paintings by owner Ed Adams, a licensed psychologist with a
private practice in Somerville.
Charles Viera, Riverrun Gallery, 287 South Main Street, Lambertville,
609-397-3349. An exhibit of Viera’s black and white paintings of
childhood memories and observed situations. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 5
p.m.; Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. Through July 19.
New Hope Arts, Union Square, West Bridge Street and Union Square
Drive, New Hope, 215-862-3396. Second annual New Hope Sculpture
Exhibition featuring an indoor exhibition of more than 88 works by 43
artists and an outdoor show of seven large-scale works installed
throughout the town. Through April, 2005.
The Old Barracks Museum, Barrack Street, Trenton, 609-396-1776.
"Furniture, Curios and Pictures: 100 Years of Collecting by the Old
Barracks," a display in the exhibit gallery is included in the tour
admission fee. Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the last tour is
at 3:50 p.m.
Colour My World, The Gallery on Lafayette, 46 West Lafayette, Trenton,
609-695-0061. A photographic celebration of people, cultures, and
environment by award-winning travel photographer, David J. Simchock.
Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. On exhibit
through August 3.
Gallery 125, 125 South Warren Street, Trenton, 609-393-8998. Opening
of new gallery owned and operated by the Trenton Downtown Association.
The first exhibit includes art by Bruce Berenson, Kristin Bodine,
William Hogan, Olu Festus, Denis Gallagher, Dora Golfetto, Rosemary
Hutchins, Carmen Cartiness Johnson, Charles Katzenbach Jr., Susan
Winters, and Siri Om Singh. The gallery’s summer hours are Tuesday
through Friday, noon to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Through August 30.
American Hungarian Foundation Museum, 300 Somerset Street, New
Brunswick, 732-846-5777. "Everywhere a Foreigner and Yet Nowhere a
Stranger," an exhibition of 19th-century Hungarian art from the Salgo
Trust for Education. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to
4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. $5 donation. Extended to September 12.
Portrait of the Jersey Shore, Barron Arts Center, 582 Rahway Avenue,
Woodbridge, 732-634-0413. "Portrait of the Jersey Shore," an
exhibition of photography by Stephen Kaplan and Margie DeAngelo.
Gallery hours, Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 to 4
p.m. Through August 1.
National Juried Print Exhibition, Hunterdon Museum of Art, 7 Lower
Center Street, Clinton, 908-735-8415. 48th Annual National Juried
Exhibition. Juror is internationally-known printmaker Sergei Tsvetkov
whose recent work in also on view in a solo exhibition. Museum hours
are Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Shows run to July 18.
Small Impressions, Printmaking Council of New Jersey, 440 River Road,
North Branch Station, 908-725-2110. Invitational exhibit featuring
traditional prints, photographs, digital prints, and handmade paper.
The show’s juror is Emma Amox, professor of art at Mason Gross School
of the Arts. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4
p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. Through August 28.
James A. Michener Art Museum, Union Square Complex, Bridge Street, New
Hope, 215-340-9800. New Hope satellite facility opens with the
relocation of the popular, interactive multi-media show, "Creative
Bucks County: A Celebration of Art and Artists," featuring 19th and
20th century painters, writers, composers, and playwrights. Also on
exhibit, "Pennsylvania Impressionists of the New Hope School." Museum
admission $6 adults; $2 youth. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 6 p.m.
James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown,
215-340-9800. "The Artists Among Us," a permanent interactive exhibit
dedicated to the history and legacy of the artists who have made New
Hope an internationally recognized arts colony. It is a permanent
exhibition. Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Admission $6.50; $4 students.
Also on display are 10 pieces of sculpture by Connecticut-based artist
David Hayes Through October 1.
Also, "Edward W. Redfield: Just Values and Fine Settings," an
exhibition of over 50 works created by the 20th century Pennsylvania
impressionist. Through January 9, 2005.
Springsteen: Troubadour of the Highway, Newark Museum, 49 Washington
Street, Newark, 973-655-7386. Exhibit devoted by the New Jersey native
and Rock and Rock Hall of Famer Bruce Springsteen. Music, lyrics,
photography, video, vinyl albums, and related memorabilia. On exhibit
through August 29.
Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, George and Hamilton streets,
New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. Beyond the Botanical: Organic Imagery in
Print, Recent Acquisitions from the Dodge Collection, and
Transcultural New Jersey: Crosscurrents in the Mainstream, The show is
part of the state-wide and year-long project. Show features works by
Emma Amos, Peter Arakawa, Siona Benjamin, Melvin Edwards, Benedict
Fernandez, Ming Fay, William J. Grant, Mija Kim, Raphael Montanez
Ortiz, Ludvic Saleh, and Kay Walkingstick. Open Tuesday to Friday, 10
a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Spotlight tours
every Sunday at 2 and 3 p.m. Admission $3 adults; under 18 free. Free
admission on the first Sunday of each month. Both shows run to July
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