By Sophia Kidd
special to GoChengdoo
Sculptural installation by Zheng Lili. Photo by Sophia Kidd.
How to play contemporary art: show up at the exhibit, find the wine, eat the crackers and cheese, and hang out in front of new pictures with friends and artists you know. Then hear about the after-party, go to it, and be a part of art history in the making.
In Chengdu, it's different. At the Chengdu Blue Roof Art Museum's current How to Play Contemporary Art exhibition, which opened April 4, curator Yan Cheng divides the 13 exhibiting artists into realist perspective and spiritual agility. Realism was the prevailing style of art leading up to the founding of the People's Republic of China and during China's Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976) and has only recently been liberated by other schools of art in China, such as expressionism and metaphysical art.
Yan Cheng's Cartesian duality—mind and body, yields a natural mysticism reminiscent of Wei and Jin dynastic periods in China (220-589). At that time, poets gave up on society and court to create in communal isolation. This can be considered an early performance art, a behavior of playing out artistic freedom.
Only Bai Dongliang works in two dimensions and hard revolutionary lines. Nothing else in the show approaches Bai in proletariat style. Bai's compositions are odd, though, close-ups of sleeping bodies, almost cubist arrangement of shapes on a cool grey palette. His remaining eight realist perspective teammates hold to thick lines, of various length and neat or schizophrenic brush strokes. In some of Xiao Ye's untitled acrylics on paper, figures mar themselves by dripping dry. Xiao's realist perspective is a dreamy denial of realism.
Another clear blurring of real and spiritual realms is in Diao Yi's work, where a loose line aesthetic creates erotic compositions, much like in Xiao Ye's work. A transcendent element of Diao Yi's work, however is the way he lifts his subjects out of space, removing them from any cultural milieu. A couple is isolated, entwined, in El-Greco greens against a stark white background. Only the line holds them in place. In this sense, Diao Yi is spiritually agile.
Xu Muyuan's Mountain Erosion Map hangs over a huge door at the back of the gallery. This piece's earth palette draws viewers away from its imperfect mount. Mountain Erosion Map is made of sand, paint, nails, nuts, washers, and other adhering materials laid out in sci-fi realistic constructions. Xu Muyuan is dreaming in mechanical strophes as he utilizes training in computer engineering to plan urban environments that can survive future desertification. Ironically, critics of his work say his work can't sell because it's hard to maintain—it'll get dusty with its intricate, three-dimensional ins and outs.
How to Play Contemporary Art runs through the end of May at The Chengdu Blue Roof Museum is located at He Tang Yue Se, Area A in San Sheng Village. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Take bus 332 to 绕城路口 (Raocheng Lukou) and walk 260 meters to 荷塘月色 (Hetang Yuese). For details, e-mail blueroof_art [AT] 163 [DOT] com or call 84675315 or 84675316 ext. 602.