The face of Asia is changing and can be seen in artwork including modern language embedded in Chinese calligraphy, photos of graffiti covering decaying buildings, and beautiful furniture distorted beyond its usefulness.
Four new exhibitions offer a window into the history and future of the region and how it is changing through globalization and modernization.
CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ART
With the death of former Communist dictator Mao Zedong in 1976, artists in China were freed to explore new mediums and methods of expression. “REGENERATION: Contemporary Chinese Art From China and the U.S.” is a traveling survey of 50 works by 26 contemporary Chinese artists living in China and outside it.
Contemporary art has flourished in this Communist nation in recent decades, explains Heather Lineberry, Arizona State University Art Museum's senior curator: “Artists have become much freer in their imagery, and their content, and the materials that they use.” See the art of Ai Weiwei, who alters traditional furniture into a nonfunctional state.
“He's someone who is talking about drastic changes in society, and how traditional forms have been subverted or changed in contemporary China,” Lineberry says.
You'll also find artist Yun-Fei Ji's modern take on traditional Chinese ink painting; the photographs of Zhang Dali — known as the first graffiti artist in China — who decorates old buildings with spray paint and photographs them against shiny new skyscrapers; and the hybrid “language” of Xu Bing, who takes English and transforms it into something that at first glance, appears to be Chinese calligraphy.
The exhibit will open Saturday and run through Dec. 24 at ASU Art Museum, Nelson Fine Arts Center, Mill Avenue and 10th Street, Tempe. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Free. For information, call: (480) 965-2787.
View brightly colored statues of fish, everyday people, royalty and Buddha in “Between Clouds of Memory: Akio Takamori, a Mid-Career Survey” at ASU Art Museum. Takamori makes multilayered pots depicting lovers, couples and individuals, with imagery of birth, new life and mythology.
Takamori creates his trademark “envelope pots” by forming two to three layers, to give the vessels depth, almost a three-dimensional look. “The inspiration for those was the influence of Japanese woodblock prints ... the way that Japanese printmakers created a sense of depth through blocks of color and contrasting colors,” says Peter Held, ASU Ceramics Research Center Curator. The exhibit is now open and will run through Jan.uary 14, 2006 at ASU Art Museum, Nelson Fine Arts Center.
Akio Takamori lecture and slide show, 7 p.m. Oct.ober 7 at Neeb Hall, ASU campus, Tempe. Free.
Akio Takamori ceramic workshop from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 8, at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St, Mesa. Cost is $35. Register by Oct. 3; call Tiffany Fairall at (480) 965-0014.
HONG KONG PAINTINGS
Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 after 155 years as a British colony. San Francisco artist Stella Lai explores the changing culture of the metropolis through her first solo museum exhibition, “Stella Lai: Let's Stop Pretending” at ASU Art Museum. “She's really looking at Hong Kong and the structure of Hong Kong; the slang that goes on in the town, the kind of oppressed sexuality that takes place there,” says the show's curator, John Spiak. Lai, 30, paints in gouache (a mixture of acrylic paint and watercolor) on paper and wood panels. She has also installed a work of hand-cut tissue paper flowers across the walls in the display.
The exhibit is now open and will run through Nov.ember 19 at ASU Art Museum, Nelson Fine Arts Center.
A reception for the three exhibits — “REGENERATION,” and the Stella Lai and Akio Takamori exhibits — will take place 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 8 at the museum.
JOURNEY INTO CHINA VIA PHOTOGRAPHS
China began construction of the world's largest hydroelectric project, Three Gorges Dam, in the Yangtze River Valley in 1992. Photographer Linda Butler made eight trips to rural China from 2000 to 2003, where she captured images of the Yangtze River and some of the construction. “Yangtze Remembered: The River Beneath the Lake” is an exhibit of 55 of her black-and-white photos.
“The dam creates a reservoir, and the reservoir has already risen 400 feet above sea level; by 2009 (when the dam is completed), it will rise yet another 175 feet,” says Janet Baker, curator of Asian Art at Phoenix Art Museum. As a result, water is inundating entire towns and cities, and important archaeological sites, she says.
Also, the museum currently has a collection of Japanese samurai warrior armor dating from the 17th to 19th centuries on display in its Asian Art Gallery. The armor is on loan from collector Roger Dunn. Baker describes them as “very dramatic, very powerful. They almost take on a human persona.” The exhibit will open Saturday at Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave. General admission is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and students with ID, $3 for ages 6-17. For information, call (602) 257-1880.
A lecture by photographer Linda Butler and the exhibit's opening reception will take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 at the museum. Free.
The “Water, Water” documentary film by Discovery Channel Canada explores global water issues and includes footage shot in China at Three Gorges Dam. It will be shown at 2 p.m. Oct. 9 at the museum. Free.