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What About Sculpture?

What About Sculpture?
Installation view

What About Sculpture?

What About Sculpture?
Installation view

Four years after the exhibition Alors, la Chine? held at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris posed this question about general developments in the world of contemporary art in China, the current exhibition focuses on sculpture which has had considerably less exposure than oil painting, video and photography. In part this is because fewer artists in the 1990s found three-dimensional expression to be suitable for the exploration of the social issues that were of such importance during this period. Since Chinese art of this period was all about breaking down barriers, however, many artists who started life as calligraphers, performance artists or photographers have found themselves irresistibly drawn to sculpture and the making of objects.

Included in the exhibition are works by Ai Weiwei, Zheng Guogu, Liu Jianhua, Zhang Huan, Shi Jinsong, Song Dong, Yin Xiuzhen, and Wang Tiande, none of whom with the exception of Shi Jinsong, would consider sculpture to be their primary medium. Without question, however, these versatile artists have produced some of the most provocative sculpture to have been produced in China in the last decade.

The human figure is only represented in fragmentary form by Zhang Huan’s Buddha Finger and United Hands by Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen.Deeply moved by the destruction of cultural and religious assets in Tibet, Zhang Huan has created a series of monumental enlargements of sculptural fragments as memorials to this tragic loss. In their charmingly home-spun homage to their mutual attachment, Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen use casts of their own hands, each holding a chopstick and supporting a miniature DVD screen documenting a bicycle ride around their neighborhood.

The sculptures of Shi Jinsong, Zheng Guogu and Wang Tiande represent objects rather than the human form. Shi Jinsong transforms well known logos into fearsome-looking implements in his Secret Book of Cool Weapons while Zheng Guogu and Wang Tiande use the form of the bottle for entirely different purposes. Trained in Chinese painting, Wang Tiande uses the form of the bottle as a sculptural support for layers of ink-soaked xuan paper. This contrasts dramatically with the group of twelve metal bottles by Zheng Guogu who first came to prominence in through the spontaneous style of his documentation of the youth culture of the small provincial city of Yangjiang where he lives. The permanence of these mundane objects, predicted to oxidize over a period of 2000 years, contrast with the ephemeral quality of urban life today.

Liu Jianhua and Ai Weiwei are both inspired by the long history of ceramics in Chinese history. Liu Jianhua was trained in Jingdezhen, the most important ceramic production in China with a history of over 2000 years. In Regular/Fragile he has moved away from the colorful, decorative appearance of his earlier work in favor of a monochromatic palette and imagery that recalls the excesses of European Baroque. Ai Weiwei rediscovered classical Chinese art when he returned to Beijing from New York in 1994. With his Duchampian sensibility, however, he questions while he admires, covering authentic Neolithic pots with brightly colored paint in Colored Vases and recreating a ruyi, a traditional Chinese auspicious symbol, as a colorful recreation of the human intestinal system.

巴黎蓬皮杜艺术中心举办《你好中国》(Alors, la Chine?)展的四年之后,提出这个有关中国当代艺术界普遍发展的问题,此次展览着眼于雕塑作品,一直未曾像油画、录像和摄影一样公开亮相。其中部分原因在于九十年代很少有艺术家感到三维表达方式能够适用于探索这段时期内具有重大意义的社会问题。尽管这一时期的中国艺术都是关于冲突阻碍的,但许多成为书法家、行为艺术家或摄影家的艺术家们却发觉自己不可抗拒地被雕塑所吸引。