Happy New Year to all! This is our first post of the year, and before we look at the events that herald us into 2016, let’s look at 2015 by the numbers:
- We listed roughly 600 Chinese-related events and about 100 exhibitions that featured artists of Chinese descent. For comparison, in 2014, we listed about 500 events and 100 exhibitions.
- We grew a lot last year, starting with 669 Facebook “likes” at the beginning of 2015 and ending with 1,074.
- We published 116 articles on beyondchinatown.com, down from 146 in 2014.
- The website had nearly 51,000 page views, with the article about Li Shuang’s “Marry Me for Chinese Citizenship” tote bag bringing in over 29,000 views.
- On Facebook, we made 719 posts, up from about 600 in 2014.
We’re proud to have sponsored the Fortress Besieged exhibition and to have partnered with Klein Sun Gallery to organize and moderate the panel discussion Presenting/Representing the Chinese Image. This year, we hope to host and collaborate with others on events that highlight local artists and will share Chinese arts and culture to a New York audience.
We’re looking forward to being active, providing good content, growing, and connecting with more people this year to foster the Chinese and Chinese-American community in New York.
If you’re interested in contributing to Beyond Chinatown, whether writing an article, contributing photos, letting us know about an event, send an email to beyondchinatown.com.
Subscribe to our newsletter from the right side of the screen. In addition to articles we’ve written, we’ll include links that we’ve posted on our Facebook page.
Update 1/8, 4:30 PM: We added the exhibition Re- and related events.
Coming up this week…
1) The Assassin 《刺客聶隱娘》– What? You haven’t seen this movie yet? If you’re a MoMA member, you can see it free, and if you are friends of a MoMA member, they can get you $5 tickets. See the next section for the description and trailer.
Saturday, January 9, 7:30 PM
MoMA, Theater 1
$12/Adults; $10/Seniors; $8/Students
2) Re- Artist Panel – Artists participating in the Re- exhibition at Flux Factory discuss their works and the concept of the prefix “re-”
Sunday, January 10, 3 – 5 PM
Flux Factory, 39-31 29th Street, Long Island City
3) History & Heroes: Heritage Revealed – Asia Society Hong Kong – In 2012, Asia Society Hong Kong opened its new home in the heart of downtown Hong Kong on the site of the former colonial-era Explosives Magazine Compound, an abandoned military installation. Join architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien in conversation with Alice Mong, Director of Asia Society Hong Kong, on the behind-the-scenes stories about the transformation of this unique heritage site into a cultural and intellectual hub.
Heritage Revealed explores the history of the Former Explosives Magazine Compound in the context of the military – both the army and the navy – and the shaping of the northern edge of Hong Kong Island. It also examines the fallow years of the Compound after WWII, followed by its rediscovery and ultimate transformation.
Monday, January 11, 7 PM
Live broadcast available at http://asiasociety.org/live
Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue
Free, but registration required
4) Arrow Factory: An Evening with Rania Ho and Wang Wei – Founded in 2008, Arrow Factory is one of the longest standing, independent, non-commercial art spaces in Beijing. Located in a narrow alley inside the city center, this 15 square meter space organizes an innovative program, focusing on site-oriented artistic display, collaboration and experimentation by local and international contemporary artists. Please join us for a presentation by Rania Ho and Wang Wei, who will provide some background on Arrow Factory and introduce their recent publication, “Arrow Factory: The Next Four Years,” which comprehensively documents the twenty-two projects mounted in this reclaimed storefront between 2011 and 2015. This publication features new perspectives from organizers of influential artist-run initiatives around the world and is structured around the elemental question: What is a good institution? Through the responses to this and other questions, “Arrow Factory: The Next Four Years” offers a window into the diverse conditions that shape China’s current cultural climate.
Tuesday, January 12, 8:30 PM
Asia Art Archive in America, 43 Remsen Street, Brooklyn
Free, but RSVP required
5) Shanghai / New York: Future Histories 2: Xi Ban & Pi Huang Club – Asia Society, Performance Space 122, and the China Shanghai International Arts Festival (CSIAF) come together for a second year of collaboration through multidisciplinary, music- focused emerging Chinese artists Xi Ban and Pi Huang Club. Wrapped in an absurd and hyperbolic narrative, the music film, Sever revisits the ancient Chinese folktale of Diao Chan with live accompaniment by the modern Chinese band Xi Ban. Mixing classical instrumentation with westernized form, Xi Ban create an intriguing interplay between traditional idioms and pop culture references. Drawing parallel lines between Qi-style Peking Opera and southern blues, Pi Huang Club matches the two main tones of this ancient performance with similarities in this distinctly American form.
Thursday, January 14, 3 – 5 PM
Flux Factory, 39-31 29th Street, Long Island City
7) MOCAMIX: Mivos Quartet – The Mivos Quartet performs music by Weijun Chen, the winner of the 2nd Biennial I Creation/ Mivos Quartet Prize for Chinese Composers, a competition designed to showcase young emerging composers of Chinese descent worldwide.
Thursday, January 14,
Museum of Chinese in America, 215 Centre Street
$15/Adults, $10/Students and Seniors; $5/MOCA members
Ongoing Films and Shows
1) Devil and Angel 《恶棍天使》– Two exact opposite personalities team up and start collecting debt for a scheming guru, who in turn cheats them. In a mix-up, the debt collectors find themselves in trouble and have to deal with the differences between them to work together and find a place for themselves in the world. (Wikipedia)
Variety calls it a “hyper but effective Chinese comedy”.
2) Mr. Six 《老炮儿》– “In this unusually fight-skittish action-movie scenario, Chinese director Feng Xiaogang plays a reformed criminal struck by how much the codes of behavior have changed when his son is kidnapped.” (full review by Variety)
3) Mojin – The Lost Legend 《鬼吹灯之寻龙诀》– Based on a #1 best-selling novel in China, the film evokes Indiana Jones, The Mummy and National Treasure as it brings to the screen an epic fantasy adventure about a trio of legendary grave robbers, the Mojin, who are enjoying the retired civilian life hawking goods on the mean streets of New York City, until they are propositioned by a shadowy and mysterious client. They accept the job and return to their roots, raiding the secrets and treasures of ancient tombs in China under the guise of an archaeology study. As each hidden passage is unearthed, it triggers extraordinary challenges that put their friendship, loyalty and life to the ultimate test.
The New York Times thinks the film wastes the talents of Shu Qi who plays the titular role in The Assassin and The Sydney Morning Herald compares the cinematography to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy but finds it disjointed overall.
4) Double It! – From internationally renowned Chinese director Chen Shi-Zheng ( 陳士爭, director of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s Monkey: Journey to the West), a story straight out of your favorite comic book, hip-hop dance numbers, and a dazzling martial arts showcase choreographed by one of China’s foremost kung-fu experts. The story revolves around a normal super hero costume party that grows to resemble a living comic book, with performers transforming from everyday citizens into the mighty men and women they emulate. Part acrobatic super hero saga, part kinetic martial arts theater, Double It like nothing you’ve seen before.
Review from The New York Times.
November 24, 2015 – January 18, 2016
Baruch Performing Arts Center
5) The Assassin 《刺客聶隱娘》
2015 | 105 minutes | Taiwan/China/Hong Kong
Mandarin with English subtitles
A wuxia like no other, The Assassin is set in the waning years of the Tang Dynasty when provincial rulers are challenging the power of the royal court. Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi), who was exiled as a child so that her betrothed could make a more politically advantageous match, has been trained as an assassin for hire. Her mission is to destroy her former fiancé (Chang Chen). But worry not about the plot, which is as old as the jagged mountains and deep forests that bear witness to the cycles of power and as elusive as the mists that surround them. Hou Hsiao-hsien’s art is in the telling. The film is immersive and ephemeral, sensuous and spare, and as gloriously beautiful in its candle-lit sumptuous red and gold decor as Hou’s 1998 masterpiece, Flowers of Shanghai. As for the fight scenes, they’re over almost before you realize they’ve happened, but they will stay in your mind’s eye forever.
Best Director, Cannes Film Festival
Official selection: New York Film Festival
Just added and opening:
1) Li Hongbo (李洪波) – Textbooks (教科书) (Klein Sun Gallery, 1/7 – 2/13) – Best known for his kinetic paper sculptures that reinvent traditional Chinese folk craftsmanship, Li Hongbo presents four new series of works that comment on pedagogical systems as economic and social currencies across different cultures. Giant binder clips, textbooks, and classroom materials create a site-specific immersive exhibition. The installations in the “Absorption” series hint at the influence of education in society, debating historical distortion and propaganda woven into classroom lessons across America and China. After collecting secondhand high school, middle school, and primary school-level textbooks, Li assembled stacks of literature in his studio in Beijing, China. From these towers, he hand-carved the busts and effigies of school children, leaving the edges raw and unfinished. Uncharacteristically silent and stationary when crafted as statues, these pupils sit on battered, old, school desks which also tell stories of past lessons and conversations. Li creates a ghostly narrative in which education and impressionable vessels – youths who will determine our future – are inseparable.
2) Gao Rong (高蓉) – The Simple Line (棱与韧) (Klein Sun Gallery, 1/7 – 2/13) – Gao has navigated notions of femininity and identity through domestic architectures in her previous series in which she created facsimile houses, rooms, and sites of memory rendered entirely in embroidered thread. Rather than romanticize the handicraft, however, Gao threads narratives together painstakingly through these embroidered fabrics, sometimes mimicking the act of suturing a wound. For her solo exhibition in our North Gallery, Gao condenses this process into abstract hoops that dissect the tensions between formalist styles and traditional folk craft indigenous to female domestic life in China. Each brilliant, iridescent thread is stretched across a wooden circle, symbolizing Gao’s constructions of space around herself and others, spaces that are in constant states of flux as the strings tense and relax on a never-ending loop.
3) The Art of Guo Fengyi (Andrew Edlin Gallery, 12/12/15 – 1/31/16) – Andrew Edlin Gallery inaugurates its new space with a solo exhibition of drawings by Guo Fengyi (郭鳳怡)(1942-2010). Guo’s work has received worldwide recognition for its towering scale and unique style of drawing—at once diagrammatic and yet distinctly enigmatic. This exhibition is the first comprehensive presentation of the self-taught artist’s work in the United States. The Art of Guo Fengyi is curated by Tina Kukielski in collaboration with Long March Space, Beijing.
The hallmarks of Guo’s hypnotic works are the rhythmic, spontaneous, and sinewy lines of colored and black inks, depicting forms and creatures that seem to hover between pattern and line, animal and human, divinity and earthly being, internal and external space. Each work is the result of Guo’s transcendent meditative process that channels and then transcribes the essence of her subjects on-to paper. Guo’s references range from historical or mythic figures from Chinese philosophy like the creation deity Nüwa to popular icons like Santa Claus and the Statue of Liberty, and sometimes include acquaintances and neighbors who once appealed to her spiritual power for medical relief. At times Guo’s works resemble an anatomical dissection of the body’s internal organs and chakras; at other times the work echoes vast energy fields. Guo’s singular bodies begin at the center and move outward, morphing into multiple human forms, then into landscape, and finally into pure states of consciousness.
4) Zhu Jinshi Exhibition (Blum & Poe, 1/7 – 2/13) – Blum & Poe presents a survey of paintings by Beijing-based painter Zhu Jinshi. This is Zhu’s first solo exhibition in New York and his second solo presentation with the gallery.
Zhu’s painting practice is divided into two parts: all-over paintings which literally cover the canvases end to end with paint often the depth of the human hand, and what are known as Liu Bai paintings (direct Chinese translation: “leaving blank”). Liu Bai, a traditional aesthetic approach to compositional balance in Chinese painting, was conceived as a form of “blankness,” rather than “emptiness,” embodying great philosophical nuance. In parallel with works such as these, Zhu has recently explored the flat application of the black monochrome, with all of its minimalist and philosophical implications. One all-black painting, Kant (2015), will be on display, its one-inch deep surface scored by a delicate web of shallow grooves and ripples. This exhibition will also feature three sculptural works; Bank (2013) and Head Sculpture (2015), consisting of enormous slabs of paint laid upon plinths; and Nine Levels (2015), a minimal, modular installation conceived especially for the gallery terrace.
This exhibition is one in a series that Blum & Poe is hosting with the intention of illuminating the narrative of postwar art in China, Japan, and Korea — serving as a point of contrast and correspondence between east and west — in both of which Zhu Jinshi is steeped, in knowledge and reference.
5) Wang Fengge (王凤鸽) – Unbounded (无界) (Chambers Fine Art, 1/7 – 2/6) – Born in Shaanxi in 1982, Wang Fengge graduated from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2009 and completed advanced studies from the same institution in 2011. Central to the vision that guides her paintings is a deep respect for classical Chinese brush and ink painting, the medium that has been used to create an extraordinary corpus of landscape and figure paintings for well over a thousand years. While appreciating the profundity of this tradition, however, she has no desire to work in the same manner, choosing instead to investigate how she might achieve the same effects in oil painting, the area of her specialization at the Academy.
She has written that “through incorporating Western modernism and Chinese traditional freehand brushwork, I am trying to enrich the meanings which oil painting can convey. Through the combination of the essential qualities found in Western and Eastern traditions, I want to find a connecting point in my painting in which Western rational structure and Eastern philosophical profundity can be bridged.”
Her paintings of 2012/2013 such as Sunflower Sea and Mirror – Nanhaizi still retain recognizable landscape motifs but she very quickly abandoned these as a distraction. In her paintings since then she has focused on details of landscapes and buildings that she reduces to nearly abstract configurations, her paintings hovering on the borderline between realism and abstraction without ever settling firmly in either camp. Her compositions defy easy classification. What is it that we are seeing? Is it a man-made or a natural form? When recognizable elements do appear, they are bathed in a penumbral light that could be early morning or dusk. This preference for working at the outer limits of perceptibility is the secret of the paintings’ low-key allure.
6) Re- (Flux Factory, 1/9 – 1/14) – Artists have always employed the “re-“, as in “rearrange,” “reselect,” “restructure,” “represent,” “reproduce,” and “rectify.” The tradition of “re-” in the age of mechanical reproduction can be traced back to the beginning of the last century, when Dadaists used collages, photomontages and assemblages to express their views on modern life. In the 1960s, Marcel Duchamp repurposed ordinary objects and turned them into art with his series of readymades. From there, appropriation art emerged and starting in the early 1990s, an increasing number of artists developed their own style by reselecting, reproducing, and restructuring daily objects.
The Re- exhibition was partly inspired by a conversation with artist Yi Zhou at Flux Factory, a space for artists that is filled with “re” objects. For example, a screwdriver functions as a faucet handle in the kitchen, while a helmet, safety goggles and a mask combine to become a gala dinner light.
Another part of the foundation for the exhibition emerged from the rise of cross-disciplinary collaboration. The artists in Re- come from a wide variety of backgrounds (fine arts, contemporary art, photography, cinema, architecture, design, amateur practices, etc.), whose practices mix forms and genres without concern for artistic conventions. Artists participating in the exhibition clearly show interest in the concept of Re-, or their creations are in line with the purpose and creative methods of Re-. They work independently, but the final outcome will transform Flux Factory into a vibrant interactive space of installations.
Featured artists include:
Tian Jiang (tian-jiang.org)
Weiyi Li (weiyi.li)
Lishan Liu (lishanliu.com)
He Wei and HU Naishu (aventstudio.com)
Jingyi Wang (jingyiwangart.com)
Jiannan Wu (jiannanwu.com)
Liu Yan (dazirany.format.com)
Funa Ye (funaye.com)
Jiang Ye (artand.cn/yejiang)
Yi Zhou (yizhoudesign.com)
Zijie Zhu (zijiezhu.com)
Re- is curated by Naiyi Wang.
Stanley Fung – Saint Anonymous (inCube Arts, 12/3 – 1/9) (extended)
Zhangbolong Liu – The Absence and Presence of a Cat (ISCP, 12/12/15 – 1/8/16)
Stanley Fung – Saint Anonymous (inCube Arts, 12/3 – 1/9)
Zhangbolong Liu – The Absence and Presence of a Cat (ISCP, 12/12/15 – 1/8/16)
The Art of Guo Fengyi (Andrew Edlin Gallery, 12/12/15 – 1/31/16)
Wang Fengge (王凤鸽) – Unbounded (无界) (Chambers Fine Art, 1/7 – 2/6)
Li Hongbo (李洪波) – Textbooks (教科书) (Klein Sun Gallery, 1/7 – 2/13)
Gao Rong (高蓉) – The Simple Line (棱与韧) (Klein Sun Gallery, 1/7 – 2/13)
Martin Wong: Human Instamatic (11/4/15 – 2/14/16)
Zhang Hongtu (Queens Museum, 10/18/15 – 2/28/16)
SUB URBANISMS: Casino Urbanization, Chinatowns, and the Contested American Landscape (Museum of Chinese in America, 9/24 – 3/27/16)
Chinese Style: Rediscovering the Architecture of Poy Gum Lee, 1923-1968 (Museum of Chinese in America, 9/24/15 – 3/27/16)
Chinese Textiles Ten Centuries of Masterpieces from the Met Collection (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 8/15/15 – 6/19/06)
Chinese Lacquer Treasures from the Irving Collection, 12th–18th Century (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 8/15/15 – 6/19/06)
Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Metropolitan Collection (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 10/31/15 – 10/11/06)
Lead image: Tranquility at West Lake by Flickr user kattebelletje, licensed through Creative Commons.