Matters of Faith with Bill Viola, Anselm Kiefer...
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[楼主] art-pa-pa 2009-05-12 17:01:46


Anselm Kiefer, Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, Xu Zhen
Text and pictures source: James Cohan Gallery's Website
March 27 through May 30, 2009
Opening reception: March 27, 6 - 8pm

James Cohan Gallery Shanghai
1/F Building 1, No.1 Lane
170 Yue Yang Road
Shanghai 200031, PRC CHINA
Tel (86)   Fax (86)
Hours Tuesday - Saturday, 10 - 6pm
Sunday, 12 - 6pm; Monday by appointment

James Cohan Gallery Shanghai is pleased to present Matters of Faith, a group exhibition featuring works by German painter Anselm Kiefer, video pioneer Nam June Paik, American video artist Bill Viola and Shanghai-based conceptual artist Xu Zhen. Artists have always been the agents of change. In the exhibition Matters of Faith works by four prominent international artists from both the East and West make reference to the sacred and spiritual by borrowing imagery from their respective traditions and by giving material presence to the myths and metaphors of their cultures. As transformed in the framework of contemporary art, these symbols and iconography take on the role of talismans that pave the way for a world where tolerance, compassion and harmony can reign.

In the paintings by German painter Anselm Kiefer, Palmostern (2006) and Domenica delle Palme (2006), the artist uses real palm fronds dipped in plaster that are collaged on to paintings created with lead and mud. The palm branch is traditional Christian iconography associated with the celebrations of Palm Sunday and Easter. The Palm is known as an immortal tree because it never actually perishes but is constantly regenerated— a new sheath of fronds buds from the side of a fallen limb. This symbol was adapted by early Christianity as a sign of Christ's victory over death and it has come to serve as a universal emblem of martyrdom. Thus Kiefer uses the symbol of Palm Sunday to reflect on the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the work of Korean video pioneer Nam June Paik, the connection between Buddhism, meditation and television is most apparent in his signature installation Enlightenment Compressed (1994), in which a bronze statue of Buddha sits to reflect upon his image on a closed–circuit television monitor. The work conflates the experience of viewing the TV with that of meditation. He draws a witty parallel between new electronic media and older systems of belief such as Buddhism by showing us that they both communicate in the same way. Looking into the future, Paik felt our culture could easily be consumed by technology and he uses art to urge us to question our beliefs and to view technology with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Bill Viola's video work Visitation (2008) is from his recent Transfiguration series. In this work, displayed on a plasma screen mounted vertically on the wall, the black and white image of a pair of ghostly figures approach, coming into focus and eventually breaking through an invisible threshold into a world of color and light. After resting there momentarily, the figures are drawn back through to the other realm. This work brings us to the intersection between life and death and the continuum of that transformation. Also on view is Viola's Study for Emergence (2002), which is based on a work commissioned by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and part of Viola's The Passions series. Two women are sitting on either side of a marble cistern in a small courtyard. They wait patiently in silence, only occasionally acknowledging each other's presence. Their vigil is suddenly interrupted by a premonition as the younger woman turns abruptly and stares at the cistern, watching in disbelief as a young man's head appears. His body rises up, spilling water over the sides and out onto the base and courtyard floor. Together the two women turn to witness this miraculous event.

A newly commissioned work for this exhibition, Untitled (2009), by the Shanghai-based conceptual artist Xu Zhen is a parody of the Potala Palace in Lhasa (initially the winter residence of the 14th Dalai Lama and later converted into a museum and tourist attraction). Built with more than 3,000 decks of playing cards, the sculpture becomes a sensational effort to break The Guinness Book of World Records.


Anselm Kiefer, Palmostern (2006) and Domenica delle Palme (2006)

Bill Viola, Visitation (2008), video

Xu Zhen, Untitled, installation

[沙发:1楼] art-pa-pa 2009-05-12 17:06:23
James Cohan Gallery

Source: - Posted by dkekacs at 11:09 AM
To view original text please click here:
Matters of Faith

Last week Xiaoxia and I spent an absurd amount of time trying to find Stephen the Spectacular at ddmwarehouse, failed, but did manage to see the exhibition at the James Cohan gallery. Featuring works by Xu Zhen, Bill Viola, Nam June Paik, and Anselm Kiefer, Matters of Faith is a small but surprisingly enjoyable exhibition (although it took me a while to figure out that the creepy, giant monkey guarding the bathroom wasn't actually part of this show).

The painted palm leaves didn't manage to engage me at all, and Xu Zhen's model of the Potala Palace built from thousands of miniature playing cards seemed like it was tedious to build but not overly innovative, but I particularly enjoyed the two video art installations. Nam June Paik's Enlightenment Compressed presented a small bronze Buddha watching its own live image displayed on a television screen a few inches in front of it. At first whimsically comical (Buddha seeking enlightenment by contemplating his own image, and on a TV screen, no less), but gradually encountering the layers of meaning, I wondered whether this Buddha was meditating, or merely in a mindless trance. And what about my own childhood, mostly spent inches away from a similar TV? Was Sesame Street really just a vehicle to reaching nirvana? Something tells me no.

Finally, Bill Viola's video featured two women, initially obscured by wierd fuzz. As they approaced the viewer, their forms passed through a grey veil of water before emerging into a world of clarity and color. Upon reaching this world (our world?), a mix of apprehension, outright fear, longing, and hope flashed across their faces. Ultimately, either defeated or disappointed, one woman seemed unable to bear the sight of the new world she had discovered, and fled back through the sheet of water into shades of grey; her companion, after a final warm glance, allowed herself to be pulled back through as well. I found this work to be the most engaging, and I enjoyed hypothesizing what lay on each side of the veil: knowledge and ignorance? order and chaos? Or maybe it was just a room full of monkeys, and the grey-haired lady had a bad childhood experience.
[板凳:2楼] art-pa-pa 2009-05-12 17:14:47


Source: Posted by xiaoxia
Orginal text:
Matters of faith

This past week, I went to several small galleries that were enclosed in a small area on Huaihai Road (forgot exactly what the street was), but I'll get to those on a later post. For this post, I wanted to talk about the James Cohan Gallery. Based off of its neighborhood, I would say that I liked the Cohan Gallery more than any of the previous galleries that we have visited--the location was quaint and hidden, almost to a point where I felt that just getting to the artwork was an experience in and of itself. Also, the surrounding environment felt authentic, lived-in, and thriving; it definitely did not feel like the manufactured (and sometimes industrial) spaces of gallery areas.

I'll candidly admit that my main impetus for visiting the James Cohan Gallery was because I was already a fan of the three non-Chinese artists (especially Anselm Kiefer), but being in the gallery itself and seeing all the works in one space made the bridge between the art produced by Western and Eastern artists a realistic and energetic reality. There was no way of pinpointing the perpetual question that I have asked of contemporary Chinese artists and their works: "What makes this 'Chinese' art", because being in the Gallery made me realize that Xu Zhen's works (and in theory, any of the works that we have seen thus far from Chinese artists in class) belong in the Gallery and unite together wonderfully with the (Western) contemporary artists whom many of us are familiar with.

[地板:3楼] art-pa-pa 2009-05-19 11:09:30


Source: Saatchi online (click here to view original text)

Once upon a time, in a sort of kingdom, in a once imperialist, now imperious, city was a palace that hovered in the air. It is a real palace, even though it is titled 'Untitled', meaning 'not titled' but also 'formerly titled', disrobed, dethroned. And the palace looks somewhat like the Tibetan Potala Palace, though that is not a palace anymore but a museum, a place one goes to look at history.

The real palace is rather small, for a palace, and somewhat fragile, constructed of playing cards, an ancient invention of the Kingdom. Like its prototype, its rooms are empty. Its mass, comprising over 3,000 decks of poker cards, levitates, almost weightlessly - a moment of levity. Its walls, ramps and roofs are decorated with either the anonymous reverse of the cards or else their specific faces, whether kings, queens, knaves, jokers or plain spots. The kings, rightly, tend to hover near the roof. The Dalai Lama's former bedroom was at the top of the Potala Palace, so that he would be the first in Lhasa each day to catch the sunrise.

'Untitled' is a good use of cards because gambling in the Kingdom is illegal. Many of its citizens are apparently unaware of this or otherwise they would also build houses of cards rather than using them to play with in umpteen restaurants and alleyways. Paper is also a Chinese invention, from around the 2nd century. Indeed it is considered one of China's "four great inventions", along with gunpowder, the compass and printing. It took roughly another 700 years however for playing cards to be invented, with the first cards produced as early as the 9th century. Originally produced by hand, playing cards were expensive and exclusive, and so it remained the world over for a long time. Now they are mass-produced and anyone can gamble. So in a way the 'Untitled' palace represents a certain equality.

Of course it is the nature of palaces that from time to time they get ransacked, burned, and raised, sometimes all three at once. Such was the fate of the Summer Palace in Beijing during the nineteenth-century Opium Wars with France and Britain and also with the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Sometimes ransacked palaces get painted afterwards (the White House) or turned into art museums (the Louvre and the Hermitage). More often they remain inaccessible, as Kafka's surveyor tragi-comically learns - Kafka, an important literary influence in China from the 1970s onwards. Here, though, we are not in the position of the perennially delayed surveyor (ironic really that Kafka died before finishing the book). Our perspective is god-like, sweeping over its walls, or perhaps developer-like, sweeping over its model walls. It reminds one of another famous model by Shen Shaomin of the Tian An Men Gate, re-imagined as a military headquarters and relaxation centre, also minutely and scrupulously made. Oh! The effort involved in making these two works! A house of cards is a childish game, a mere distraction from boredom. But a palace constructed from over 3,000 decks is a grand obsession. Mad King Ludwig would have been proud. It took a team of Xu Zhen's assistants ten days and nights to build it and we will have to see whether, as hoped, it has broken the Guinness Book of Records - another deliciously absurd gesture by Xu Zhen.

Xu Zhen wants to get to the essence of things and he uses a meld of minimalism, performance and conceptualism to do it, with a dollop of humour to make the medicine go down. Firstly, the fundamental nature of the materials in his artworks is examined until they become discarnate and absurd. Thus in 'It' (2008) the bizarrely contested memory of a footprint on the moon is reduced to markings on a speck of dirt, viewable only through a microscope. In 'Abstract painting Nr.1' (2008) the star spangled banner becomes just stars and spangles, something for the jingoistic disco. In '8848 - 1.86' (2005), a work which examines the relationship between truth and trust, Everest is conquered by decapitation - a most democratic form of appropriation, its peak then displayed as a trophy in a museum cabinet. Clearly this work was a response to the sincerity of Zhang Huan's famous performance work 'To add one meter to an anonymous mountain' (1995), which deliberately ignored the obsession with national and nationalist symbols, such as the Great Wall or the Yellow Mountains, of the prior generation of Chinese artists. I suspect 'Untitled' also refers to '8848 - 1.86'. Here the architecture of a man-made mountain has been decapitated, removed from its 'true' environment by a displacement of its purpose, religious or otherwise. After all, no one can take a house of cards seriously, can they?

Secondly, Xu Zhen examines the fundamental nature of the artistic act through what he terms 'interventions', disruptions in activity which intensify, pervert or break a particular 'act'. Examples include organizing an unexplained demonstration in the series ????????????????????????????? (2004) or, 'In just a blink of an eye' (2007), a performance which leaves someone literally caught in an eternal fall, never landing but also never recovered. In the film Rainbow, an anonymous back slowly turns red from slapping. We hear the slapping but do not see it, just its effect. Is it an assault or consensual? Does it hurt? Xu's aim is clearly to provoke. In the case of 'Untitled', the intervention is somewhat different, comprising its construction by a team of agents and its destruction by chance, an invisible intervention. Like 'It' and '8848 - 1.86', it is also a disruption of history, given that in living memory China has been prone more than once to Quixotic acts that ultimately founded in failure, particularly the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s. Again I am minded of K. and his Sisyphean attempt to be recognized by the uninterested bureaucracy of the Castle.

Art's métier is the poetry of uncertainty. It forms discussion in the febrile atmosphere of interpretation rather than elucidates scientific findings. To the vast majority of Chinese, given the nature of indoctrination, Tibet remains an 'indivisible' part of China. That some of Tibet's residents, one-time or otherwise, may be reluctant to accept such familial generosity is beyond comprehension. In China's view, the People's Liberation Army liberated the Tibetan people from poverty and serfdom, which is true, up to a point. It also freed them from a nepotistic, theocratic dictatorship, which is also true, up to a point, but then to each their own poison. And liberation has brought substantial development to Tibet, though for some perhaps more so than others, Han Chinese migrants for instance. So it remains that the two sides cannot engage with one another, nor is it foreseeable that they will. 'Untitled' is far more subtle and ambiguous than mere agitprop, however, one way or the other. As one of the pre-eminent conceptualists in China, Xu Zhen's gaming with different materials is focused on the essence of truth, of its complex nature and how we mistreat it. The palace is ever so precarious, regardless of who resides there. A gust of wind could blow it all away and in the couple of weeks since I saw it the first time, some parapets have already crumbled. And China hates instability, after all, they have had quite a bit of it in the last 150 years. But, despite every attempt to tie it down, meaning remains inherently unstable. The suits, diamonds, hearts, spades and clubs, do they speak of wealth, love, work and war? What is the meaning of the jokers on the ramp? Whatever their meaning, it remains deliberately, incoherent. So who laughs last here is infinitely questionable and history is a sometimes wry, sometimes cynical game of chance. In the words of Kenny Rogers, you got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run.

Xu Zhen's work appears as part of a group exhibition, 'Matters of Faith', yet another excellent exhibition at James Cohan Gallery. I chose to concentrate on 'Untitled' rather than discuss the works by Bill Viola, Nam Jun Paik and Anselm Kiefer, because Xu Zhen's piece demanded. However, all the works in the exhibition were fine examples of each artist's oeuvre, particularly Jun Paik's 'Enlightenment Compressed, from 1994, a small bronze Buddha eternally meditating on his own 'reflected' image in an anachronistic television set, your own obscured video-image caught as you pass behind him. J.G.Ballard, who died recently, would have appreciated it immensely.

Xu Zhen's installation '8848 - 1.86' (2005) has recently been purchased by Tate Modern.

Chris Moore

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[5楼] guest 2011-05-13 04:06:02
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