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Omens: Recent Works by Wu Jian'an

Beijing Minsheng Art Museum presents: Omens: Recent Works by Wu Jian’an from November 4 to December 11, 2016. Curated by Wu Hung, this is the first comprehensive solo museum exhibition of the artist’s work, and is co-sponsored by China Minsheng Bank and Minsheng Art Museum, and assisted by Chambers Fine Art.

Wu Jian’an was born in 1980 in Beijing, graduated with MFA from Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2005 and became a lecturer at CAFA. Currently he is the Associate Professor and graduate student supervisor in the Department of Experimental Art at CAFA. His work has been exhibited at numerous institutions including the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Museum of Lincolnshire Life, China Central Academy of Fine Arts, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Prince Gong’s Mansion, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In Wu Jian’an’s early works, he used traditional Chinese paper-cut techniques to illustrate mythical and philosophical concepts from both the East and West with his own imaginative, contemporary style. This exhibition not only presents works made using this medium and style, but also shows more recent works with expanded themes and materials. Wu Hung states that: “Wu Jian’an’s imagination has always operated simultaneously in multiple dimensions. Likewise, his works simultaneously expand the viewer’s artistic imagination in various directions. He travels between words and images while adding a layer of storytelling above figuration and abstraction. He introduces sound and performance to break away from mere visuals and viewing. He freely traverses temporal divides, instantaneously taking viewers from today’s world back to mysterious primeval times. His art spans various media and styles: painting, sculpture, paper cut, and installation, all of which provide him with a varied vocabulary yet also arouse his desire to cross boundaries – to integrate, transgress and disarrange.”

In describing the overall theme of the exhibition, Wu Hung states “Omens are mythical. They are occurrences of strange phenomena that portend major events, either natural disaster or dynastic change, or even the end of humankind and the earth. The concept and logic of omens transcend cultural and geographical spheres; their language is that of ancient scientific theory and political philosophy. In all such cases, omens involve the imagination of the unknown and the future. From this perspective, it is worth considering the relationship between omens and art, especially contemporary art, because art is always related to imagination, and true contemporary art always aims to create a trajectory to the unknown and the future.”

Interpreted in this way, this exhibition establishes a unique link between contemporary thinking and the mythical world. Each of the four themes presented here are rooted in ancient Chinese legends: the headless giant Xingtian who fought against the Supreme Divinity, grotesque animals that make strange sounds from the Classic of Mountains and Seas, the catastrophic ending of the boy assassin Mei Jianchi, and the Money Trees of the Han dynasty that have inspired Wu Jian’an’s Daydream Forest. Like cultural genes, these stories and characters have been passed down through history and reborn in Wu’s art.

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