By Glenda Rice Collins, For The Oklahoman
Published December 21, 2014
Two extraordinary contemporary art exhibitions, reflecting Eastern and Western cultures globally, continue through mid-January in the heartland of the United States.
“My Generation: Young Chinese Artists” continues through Jan. 18 at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now,” an exhibition representing some 100 American emerging artists, continues through Jan. 19 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., where it was brilliantly conceived and produced.
Both exhibitions exude striking originality, provocative content and diverse inspiration, accomplishing a uniquely expanded territory for edgy “world-class” standards and comparisons.
For the young Chinese, as for Americans, globalization, alienation, pollution and rebellion are daily realities, though the gifted Chinese artists live very well and are “treated like rock stars,” in a hyper-Capitalist society, according to “My Generation” curator Barbara Pollack, author of “Wild, Wild East.”
While investigative journalist and curator Pollack made numerous, immersive trips to China’s burgeoning arts scene, since the mid-1990s, “State of the Art” co-curators — Crystal Bridges museum President Don Bacigalupi and his colleague Chad Alligood — this past year traveled about 100,000 miles to 1,000 U.S. destinations to select and showcase some 100 gifted, emerging American artists, not yet fully recognized globally.
The Chinese as well as the American artists are bridging global communication gaps through the international common language of the arts, though, according to Pollack, “they (in China) have little in common with their parents’ views of what art is.”
The diversity of styles represented in both exhibitions — featuring painting, photography, installations, performance art and highly sophisticated videos using cutting-edge technology — appears to put them all on somewhat common ground, within various realms of universal human emotions, both poignant and perceptive.
“The medium is both the message and the massage,” as Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously said in the 1960s, regarding cultural influences in the decade before futurist Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” was published.
Products of culture
For “My Generation” sophisticated humor, Liu Chuang’s video “Untitled (The Dancing Partner),” from 2010, shows two white sedans disrupting traffic in the busy streets of Beijing by merely driving for miles at the minimum speed limit as side-by-side partners in their own world.
Be forewarned, “acting out” for the nine “bad boys” of the Chinese Double Fly Art Center provokes free-spirited video art for “My Generation,” which affronts standards of pornography via their energetic alternative lifestyles in China.
Meanwhile, innovative performance art video at “State of the Art” includes Chris Larson’s “Heavy Rotation” video, which shows his own analytical antics within the mysterious space of a rotating architectural structure.
States of the arts
“State of the Art,” at Crystal Bridges, draws from every region of the United States, thus examining the ways in which today’s emerging artists are informed by the past. Innovation with old and new materials, plus engagement with current relevant issues, trends here, as in China.
For the young Chinese artists who have survived what “My Generation” curator Pollack calls “a whiplash of cultural identity” during their upbringing in a one-child-per-family, post-Mao China, the acting out and rebellious nature would seem predictable and magnified.
“If you grow up in a country that has such a connection with (a 5,000-year) tradition … most are rebelling against scroll painting … toward 21st century art,” Pollack said during a recent Oklahoma City Museum of Art panel discussion.
Having grown up with an open-door policy in China, Pollack said, “These artists want to get access to galleries in the West. They know how to speak to a global audience better than anyone else in the world. … Their vitality and desperate energy come from a sense of uncertainties of identity.”
“State of the Art” encompasses a stunning array of diverse, contemporary arts, ranging from the seemingly quirky to labor-intensive structural sculpture, from a wide range of ages and skills, to also include thought-provoking action/interaction environments, such as artist Andy DuCett’s clever “Mom Booth,” where visitors can converse with various real mothers, in person.
Song Kun (Chinese, b. 1977). Burning Rebirth, 2011. Oil on canvas. © Song Kun, courtesy of the artist and Boers-Li Gallery, Beijing.