China’s rapid economic expansion, is it any wonder the nation’s contemporary
arts scene shares the same global ambitions of its go-go manufacturing
sector? In fact, multi-millionaire
artist Wang Guangyi is already an industry unto himself. For his part, Liu Gang
has high hopes and heaps of potential.
Documentary filmmaker Mika Mattila follows the two artists and their
respective shows over a three year period in Chimeras (trailer
screens during the 2013 Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of
Guangyi does not have Ai Weiwei’s name recognition outside China, but he sells
like Gerhard Richter to his nouveau riche countrymen. Yet, there are still opportunities for an
unknown like Liu Gang to mount his first one-man show in a prestigious gallery
space. It seems the former art student
is well on his to joining the elite, until his follow-up show is less
surprisingly, both artists wrestle with the baggage of China’s recent history
and issues of globalization. Wang
Guangyi freely mixes Communist iconography with consumerist imagery for an
ambiguously ironic effect. When it comes
to ideology, the senior artist seems deliberately cagey, aside from his
explicit rejection of western aesthetic standards. Frankly, he remembers the Cultural Revolution
somewhat fondly, because school was canceled.
Still, it readily admits in retrospect great atrocities were also
committed at the time (which to his credit, Mattila forthrightly illustrates
with dramatic archival stills).
Liu Gang also clearly criticizes commercial impulses in his work, noting with
some regret how China’s gallery system is almost entirely based on the Western
model. Yet, it is when he proposes a series of work inspired by China’s One
Child policy, the once welcoming establishment sort of freaks.
captures this dichotomy reflected in contemporary Chinese culture and commerce
solely through direct observation. There
is a lot of messy reality in the film, as well as some intriguing art. While ostensibly focused on the two artists
and their oeuvre, the ghosts of history haunt the margins of the film in
strange and unexpected ways.
Intelligently assembled by Mattila and his
editor Mikko Sippola, Chimeras (not a
great title, but so be it) opens a fascinating window into an underreported
sector of China. Recommended for China
watchers and those who follow the international art scene, Chimeras screens tomorrow (10/19) as part of this year
Margaret Mead Fest at the AMNH.
Labels: China, Documentary, Margaret Mead '13