Second Exhibition of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative Features Works Commissioned for Guggenheim Collection
Exhibition: Tales of Our Time
Venue: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York
Location: Tower Levels 4 and 5
Dates: Now through March 10, 2017
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents Tales of Our Time, an exhibition featuring nine newly commissioned works by artists born in mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. This is the second exhibition of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative, a long-term research, curatorial, and collections-building program at the Guggenheim Museum.
The exhibition’s title refers to the 1936 book Gushi xin bian (Old Tales Retold) by the influential Chinese modernist, social activist, and literary giant Lu Xun. In the book, Lu reinvents Chinese legends, as he considers these tales to be not only a literary genre, but also a strategy for critiquing social conditions and reconstructing history through storytelling.
Though diverse in subjects and strategies, the works are united by the artists’ use of storytelling to propose alternative ways of looking at place. Working in drawing, animation, video, photography, sculpture, installation, and participatory intervention, the artists in the exhibition address the concept of geography and territory in ways as specific as where they are based or as big as China itself, which they see as a concept constantly being questioned and reinvented. These artists freely cross divides to examine the tensions between past and present, myth and fact, reality and dreams, rationality and absurdity, and individuality and collectivity.
The artists represented in Tales of Our Time are Chia-En Jao, Kan Xuan, Sun Xun, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Tsang Kin-Wah, Yangjiang Group, and Zhou Tao.
Tales of Our Time is organized by Xiaoyu Weng, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Associate Curator of Chinese Art, and Hou Hanru, Consulting Curator, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative. Kyung An, Assistant Curator, Asian Art, provides curatorial support. The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative is part of the Guggenheim’s Asian Art Initiative, directed by Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator, Asian Art and Senior Advisor, Global Arts. All commissioned works will enter the Guggenheim’s collection.
“Curators Xiaoyu Weng and Hou Hanru have taken a dynamic and collaborative approach, as they worked closely with the commissioned artists to explore the questions and insights that drive these art practices. We hope that these works will inform new understanding of global contemporary art through the lens of Chinese culture today,” stated Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation. “The Guggenheim is grateful to The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation for its sustained commitment to this effort.”
Ted Lipman, CEO of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, congratulated the commissioned artists and noted, “Contemporary Chinese art, along with the dialogue around it, is a dynamic and increasingly important force shaping the global cultural landscape. The Chinese Art Initiative at the Guggenheim is designed to offer a fresh perspective on Chinese culture and its relationship with contemporary society. The Foundation hopes the impact of this initiative will be a lasting one.”
“The artists represented in Tales of Our Time vary greatly in their practices and viewpoints,” says Xiaoyu Weng. “But they share a broad perspective, one that places China’s culture, history, and social reality in the context of the wider world. And like so many artists today, they register acute discomfort with the tension between the personal experiences of regular people and the dominant narratives and conventions of power.”
Tales of Our Time is installed on two Tower Levels of the museum. Visitors may enter Tower Level 4 through a passageway lined with fantastic visions inspired by the natural world, drawn in the classical Chinese style on traditional bark paper by Sun Xun (b. 1980). Sun’s installation Mythological Time (2016) centers on his hometown of Fuxin in northeastern China, a coal-mining town that was once the pride of modern-era Chinese industrialization, but which the artist portrays as merely a fleeting scene over many millennia. A second monumental wall-size painting by Sun Xun depicting a surreal prehistoric landscape is also on view. Two video streams are projected onto its surface, sending animated creatures cavorting next to those drawn on paper with ink and acrylics.
Taxi (2016), a video installation, presents conversations conducted by the artist Chia-En Jao (b. 1976) with taxi drivers in Taipei. The artist asked drivers to take him to historically contested destinations in the city, such as a branch of Chang Hwa Bank where a mass protest was suppressed by Chiang Kai-shek’s military regime in 1947, the Presidential Office Building, the Grand Hotel, or the National Taiwan Museum. Recorded documentary style, the conversations meander through difficult memories of the Japanese occupation and martial law to present-day concerns. The artist has also created a flag for the installation, a traditional coat of arms representing many aspects of Taiwanese society, including its aboriginal communities. Through this investigation into the powerful connection between history and storytelling, Jao creates a mental map of Taipei that honors individual memory and experience.
Nearby Taxi on Tower Level 4 is a futuristic, pod-like video installation by Zhou Tao (b. 1976). Land of the Throat (2016) evokes a phenomenon characteristic of China’s urbanization today: the construction of the new and the consequential transformation of the land. Two synchronized videos composed of footage recorded in Guangdong, China and Arizona are projected onto opposite sides of an enclosed structure in the gallery space. A cow chained to an abandoned industrial washing machine moos in an otherwise silent, desolate landscape; workers pour out of construction sites; children play aimlessly; dogs and rats roam near fishing holes; and rescue workers in Shenzhen care for survivors injured in the city’s 2015 landslide. Continue reading