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Art

26 Contemporary Chinese Artists Explore Materiality in ‘Allure of Matter’

February 13, 2020

Grace Ebert

Zhu Jinshi, “Wave of Materials” (2007), Xuan paper, cotton thread, bamboo, and stones. Installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, image © Museum Associates/LACMA

CHICAGO—Containing a massive paper wave, a tower of leftover fat, and a tiger-skin rug of 500,000 cigarettes, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China encompasses 48 works from 26 contemporary Chinese artists in an exhibition on view now in Chicago. Focused on the materiality of seemingly every day objects, the exhibition prompted artists to explore how substances like tobacco, plastics, and Coca-Cola could be fashioned anew. “Taken together, the works introduce a broader framework for understanding global contemporary art, which I call ‘Material Art’ or caizhi yishu, where material—rather than image or style—is the paramount vehicle of aesthetic, political, and emotional expression,” said co-curator Wu Hung.

The Allure of Matter is an extension of a trend artists in China began in the 1980s as they experimented and “exploded fireworks into paintings, felted hair into gleaming flags, stretched pantyhose into monochromatic artworks, deconstructed old doors and windows to make sculptures, and even skillfully molded porcelain into gleaming black flames,” a statement about the exhibition says.

Today, artists involved in the project, like Ai Weiwei (previously), Hu Xiaoyuan, and Cai Guo-Qiang (previously), are engaging with that provocative tradition through their multi-media works that often fill entire rooms, like gu wenda‘s human hair structure that is suspended from the ceiling. “Their monumental works represent a multifaceted phenomenon that inspires us to ask big questions about our relationship to the everyday material world around us as well as the interrelationship between Chinese art and broader trends in contemporary art globally,” co-curator Orianna Cacchione said.

If you’re in Chicago, make sure to check out the exhibition at both the Smart Museum and Wrightwood 659 before it closes on May 3.

gu wenda, “united nations: american code” (2019), human and synthetic hair. Installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, image © Museum Associates/LACMA

Ai Weiwei, “Tables at Right Angles” (1998), Tables from the Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Stockamp Tsai Collection, New York

Liu Jianhua, “Black Flame” (2017), 8,000 flame-shaped black porcelain pieces. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Pace Gallery. Installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, image © Museum Associates/LACMA

Gu Dexin, “Untitled” (1989), melted and adjoined plastic. Installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, image © Museum Associates/LACMA

Song Dong, “Water Records” (2010), four-channel video projection. “Traceless Stele” (2016), metal stele, water, brushes, and heating device. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Pace Gallery. Installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, image © Museum Associates/LACMA

Shi Hui, “Float” (2000/2007/2013), wire mesh and xuan paper pulp. Installation view at China Academy of Art, Hangzhou

Ma Qiusha, “Wonderland: Black Square” (2016), cement, nylon stocking, plywood, resin, iron

Xu Bing, “1st Class” (2011), 500,000 “1st Class” brand cigarettes, spray adhesive, and carpet. Installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, image © Museum Associates/LACMA

Xu Bing, “1st Class” (2011), 500,000 “1st Class” brand cigarettes, spray adhesive, and carpet. Installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, image © Museum Associates/LACMA

Liang Shaoji, “Chains: The Unbearable Lightness of Being” of Nature Series No.79 (2002–7), polyurethane, colophony, iron powder, silk, and cocoons. Installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, image © Museum Associates/LACMA

 

 



Design

Everyday Consumer Goods Are De-Produced Into Rectangular Prisms of Raw Materials

February 22, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Volkswagen Beetle. Photograph by Ronald Smits

Dutch design team Studio Drift (previously) codifies the complex mix of materials that are used to create modern consumer goods in their newest series, Materialism. The collection reduces down recognizable items ranging from light bulbs and pencils to bicycles and even a Volkswagen Beetle. Raw materials like graphite, copper, rubber, polyurethane, and aluminum are shown as perfectly sliced blocks, emphasizing the original substance rather than the abstracted functional shape (like a rubber bicycle tube or graphite pencil core).

In a statement about the collection, Studio Drift describes the lofty goals of Materialism: “To make the essential nature of the world visible. If humankind could somehow perceive this connection to materials, to our collective consumption and the earth it impoverishes, it would be a leap in our social evolution, in building an awareness that we must somehow become better stewards of our future.”

Materialism was recently displayed with Pace Gallery at the Frieze Art Fair in Los Angeles, California. You can see more from Studio Drift on Facebook and Instagram. (via dezeen)

De-produced bicycle. Photograph by Gert Jan van Rooij

De-produced pencil. Photograph by Ronald Smits

De-produced light bulb. Photograph by Ronald Smits