Saturday, April 11, 2009

Contemporary Sculpture from China

Let's face it,
Chicago's Millennium Park
is not the Jardin des Tuileries.

It's just a high-brow amusement park.

Sui Jianguo (born 1956)

So so it's a proper setting
for these giant, out-scale toys
that have come here from China.

Made not by toy-makers,
but by graduates of Beijing's art academy,
which has moved quite easily
from the Social Realism of the revolutionary years
to the ironic flash n' trash
of rambunctious capitalism.

(Sui Jianguo is best known for his Mao suits,
following the trail blazed by Andy Warhol)

Chicago likes big dinosaurs
(there's a magnificent steel brontosaurus
just west of the Field Museum
which houses, of course,
the fossilized remains of "Sue")

Mr. Sui's version is kind of cheap looking,
and stickered "Made in China".

Get it ?

Chen Wenlin (b. 1969)

Strolling further into the Boeing Gallery,
we find this bizarre confection,
presumably a tribute
to Chicago as
"hog butcher to the world"
(do we still hold that title ?)

Kind of repulsive,
kind of funny,
kind of eye catching.

If only that little car that carries it
could be driven
in some kind of holiday parade
full of outrageous confections.

But there is something Chinese about it.

Mr. Chen must have seen
some ferocious temple guardian lions.

Zhan Wang ( born 1962 )

Finally, we come to this outscale version
of a Chinese scholar's rock.

The Art Institute had a display of such things
about 10 years ago.
They're natural chunks of rock
whose rough, weathered, perforated surfaces
provide an opportunity
to contemplate the forces of nature (i.e. the Tao)

But Mr. Zhan has made this rock by himself
(possibly by hammering sheets of metal
over a real rock)
and it allows the modern scholar
to contemplate the forces of modern civilization

Which is to say,
it looks like a train wreck.
(except that I've seen some good train wrecks,
and they look better)

It's not a bad idea,
to make a large, rough,
vertical piece
and display it against
the severe rectangles of a modern city.

But this one was made be ugly,
not beautiful.

which contrasts it with this
earlier installation in the park,
Anish Kapoor's famous "bean"
(or "Cloud gate" as he had named it)

It actually is beautiful

and it relieves the tedium
of modern urban architecture.

Perhaps beauty is more accessible
to a person born in Mumbai instead of Beijing
in the middle of the 20th C.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Art in Bloom

It was Art In Bloom day
at the Milwaukee Art Museum today.

This is where local florists are invited
to decorate each gallery with a design
appropriate for the paintings on the wall.

Above is the 18th C. room
(with Beth posing beside the Fragonard)

and here is Beth
with the German Expressionists

she is something
of a German Expressionist