Because of isolation lasting centuries, Chinese artists have developed their own world of images, without connections to what is produced in Europe and the United States. The case of the Yi School is highly significant. Although it was born at the margin of the abstract art and conceptual art that have dominated the Western art world in recent decades, it maintains points of contact with these two. It is art lived as an experience of retreat and meditation that explores contemplation, unity and harmony. The extraordinary development of the People’s Republic of China in recent years and the opening of new pathways of communication and business with the West have stimulated the world’s interest in Chinese culture. After its presentation in Barcelona, ”la Caixa” Social and Cultural Outreach Projects is taking to CaixaForum Madrid the first major exhibition of the Yi School outside China, organized jointly with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and the Beijing Culture & Art Foundation. The exhibition introduces eighty-two works by forty-eight Chinese artists of the last thirty years, divided into three periods. Yi art from the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) until the 1980s is characterized by an idealized humanism in opposition to the revolutionary slogans (Yi xiang, “mental image”). The second period is when art at a time of urban and cosmopolitan expansion recovers private spaces and incorporates Eastern symbols and writing (Yi li, “mental principle”). The third period, Maximalism (Yi chang, “mental environment”), arose at the end of the 1990s and devotes its main attention to the process and the context of the art work.
A few months ago, to coincide with the opening of a Representative Office of ”la Caixa” in Beijing, an exhibition of fifteen works by international artists from the ”la Caixa” Foundation’s Collection of Contemporary Art was put on at the Beijing Art Museum of Imperial City. The Yi School: Thirty Years of Chinese Abstract Art represents its counterpoint. It is designed to bring the general public in our country closer to an artistic school that has had decisive weight in Chinese plastic art from the 1970s until now and to make the work of some of today’s leading Chinese creative artists better known.
The Yi School is defined as an artistic tendency in China, based for the last three decades on the aesthetic essence of Yi. It is distinct both from contemporary literature and conceptual art and from Eastern abstract art. In Chinese aesthetics, Yi does not mean just subjective thought, even though it is a fruit of our mind. It is not precisely equivalent to the terms concept, idea or significance, but represents a state of contemplation and meditation by creative artists, the way that artists or poets think about their surroundings or observe them. In this respect, the Yi School is the artistic style best suited to expressing meditation.
If we think that Yi is related not just to the thought of the artists, but also to the real environment and the objectives of meditation, the Yi School cannot be defined by any modern Western concept such as realist art, conceptual art or abstract art, even though it may look like all these tendencies, especially abstract art. In reality, the Yi School brings together almost all the characteristics of these three tendencies without restricting itself to any one of them in particular. This responds to a norm that has always governed traditional Chinese aesthetics, to stop art becoming excessively diverted towards the extremes.
In terms of expression of Yi, the artists have focused in different periods on different aspects of Yi. For example, at the end of the 1970s, during the Cultural Revolution, a series of non-official artists sought individual freedom in opposition to Mao’s propagandistic art. In this context, the Yi School focused on the search for individual expression and for “pure art” against “conceptualized” political art. The Yi School was expressed in the aesthetic form of Yi xiang or “mental image”. Artists sought unity and harmony between concepts and objects of nature, during the process of thinking about and observing the external world. Then the representatives of the Yi School at the end of the 1980s paid greater attention to expressing their ideas about the way to reform reality and cultural modernity through cultural signs. In this period, the Yi School defended symbolic concepts, the essence and start of an ideal culture and society. As such, the Yi School during this period is called Yi li or “mental principle”. Thus the Yi School of this epoch represents Yi Chiang or “mental environment”. Creating works of art is equivalent to meditating in a private space.
Yi School – 30 Years of Chinese AbstractArt
4 June – 21 Sept 2008.
Av. Marqués de Comillas, 6-8
Read a nice review of the show at Blog on Art in BarcelonaTags: CaixaForum Madrid, meditation, abstract, conceptual art, ink, Yi
November 18, 2008 No Comments
Or maybe they realized painting is actually fun? Anyway, we’ll let you answer this question…
How have the basic conditions of art practice changed and what words and models could we use to open up the potentials at the heart of these developments in art after Conceptualism?
The dominant models no longer satisfy. It makes no sense to melodramatically invoke the “end of painting” (or any other medium-specific practice for that part) when the continuous emergence of fascinating work obviously proves apocalyptic endgame scenarios wrong. Yet, to pretend it were possible to go back to business as usual seems equally impossible because the radical expansion of artistic possibilities through the landslide changes of the 1960s leave medium-specific practices in the odd position of being one among many modes of artistic articulation, with no preset justification. How can we describe then what medium-specific practices like painting or sculpture can do today?
Likewise, it seems, that we can still not quite convincingly describe to ourselves what Conceptual Art can be: An art of pure ideas? As if “pure” idea art were ever possible let alone desirable! An art of smart strategic moves and puns? We have advertising agencies for that. The social and political dimension of Conceptualism has been discussed, but often only in apodictic terms, not acknowledging the humour, the wit, the existential, emotional or erotic aspects, as well as the iconophile, not just iconoclast motives, that have always also been at play in the dialectics and politics of life-long conceptual practices.
Tags: art, Artist, conceptual art, conceptual artists, Paint
If you’re in Berlin this is a series of lectures at:
Platz der Vereinten Nationen 14a
10249 Berlin DE
T: 030 28 04 79 73
In reference to Irreverence, Friday, November 14th, 7:30 PM
November 12, 2008 No Comments
Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe / Thought in a Garden / 2008 / Oil on linen / 86 x 38 x 1-1/4 inches / alexander gray associates
Got to this small exhibit a couple of weeks ago. Lush colors, probably need to spend a lot more time than I did looking at each piece to get more of a sense of the spacial shifts and the color effects. The colors are certainly visually enticing.
From the gallery:
In the four abstract paintings in this exhibition, Gilbert-Rolfe revisits the grid and the vertically oriented canvas. The grid, which possessed a more architectural look when it first appeared in his paintings in the late 1970s and early 80s, becomes a mesmerizing force in new paintings such as Pynchon. Covering the entire canvas with a meticulously rendered rectangular grid, Gilbert-Rolfe uses the grid in Pynchon to suggest the depth of a screen and the temporal duration associated with music. An empathetic relationship with the viewer’s body is encouraged by all of the paintings’ verticality, which also shifts their compositional foci to the center, where a crevice runs down the center of each painting.
Gilbert-Rolfe has said that he “want[s] to reverse the relationship between color and drawing in painting.” In this new body of paintings, he has continued this pursuit by almost completely abandoning painterly gesture and instead using the grid to feature color in its most exuberant forms. Using a technique that involves building layers of glazes, Gilbert-Rolfe flaunts color, punching up the brightness of his pinks and yellows by juxtaposing them with dark browns and blues.
Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe @ Alexander Gray Associates, 526 West 26 Street #1019, through June 14.Tags: minimal, color, Gilbert-Rolfe, pynchon, canvas, exhibition
May 28, 2008 No Comments
TWWOBLCAKSTALLIONSWITHINSAANECOKCSRAMMIINGNAISTYBRUUNETT / ink on paper / 20” x 30” / 2008 / © Courtesy of Ned Snider / www.nedsnider.com
My friend Ned Snider has been working on a series of screen prints based on SPAM e-mails for a while and has just decided he has finished the cycle. As he says about this work
This most recent series of text-based work attempts to serve as a metaphor for the larger context in which spam email exists. This being the relentless and unbiased dissemination of information, which our society is now accustomed to receiving on a daily basis. Unbeknownst to us, much of this information is traveling all around in energy waves organized by our vast telecommunications systems, until they find their proper media terminus.
The visual interpretations within this series are intended to echo this phenomenon of information propagation. Each spam message used was taken verbatim from the original message that found it’s way into my inbox. [Read more...]
What I like about this work is how he has given form to this meat, materialized it out of the ether, sliced it up, transformed it, photographed it, and then dematerialized it back onto the web! See the whole series at nedsnider.comTags: TWWOBLCAKSTALLIONSWITHINSAANECOKCSRAMMIINGNAISTYBRUUNET, silk screen, screen prints, nedsnider, silkscreen, visual interpretations
March 28, 2008 No Comments
I finally got up to Moma to see the Color Charts exhibition. The first thought I had when I walked in was how much our experience of color has been influenced by technology. Pixels. It’s as if artists have been reduced to pixels pushers in our use of color. Then it dawned on me that the rectangle (pixel) has become the primary gestalt in the last 60 years. The subtext of the show is definitely about rectangles, grids, and squares, or in the terms of the curator, charts.
What’s interesting is that the title of the show Color Charts: Reinventing Color 1950 to Today seems to imply that artists have been engaged in a radical project of color exploration or that our knowledge of color and the use of color has been greatly expanded. Actually I found the opposite to be the case. With a few exceptions, the artists in the show use color in a rather homogeneous and limited manner. But, I guess that’s the point standardization, mechanization, commercialization. For the most part color is the stuff for conceptual and perceptual games. The stuff of entertainment or decoration. The spice of consumption. An accent.
As a painter, the show reminded me of the importance of color exercises the need to develop and nurture color sensitivity, but that there is a limit to the exercises and that exercises are just that exercises and not works of art. The methods of Johannes Itten and Joseph Albers for the Bauhaus and that have now become standard fare at art schools are helpful in developing color sensitivity, but they are limited. Color cannot be studied in isolation. It is interdependent with our materials. The color of paper and its use in collage is different than the color of pigment and its use in paint. Or the color of pixels and their use in video. Color is a language, a language that great painters master. The use of color is a craft skill developed simultaneously with the other craft skills of painting. The pieces in the show helped stimulate my awareness of color, and when I left and wandered through the other galleries of Moma I felt blown away by the use of color by painters up until 1950. Matisse, Gorky, Mitchell, Diebenkorn, just to name a few. Much more diverse and much more sophisticated and much more sensitive. In their hands color is not just a concept, a game, or a decorative element, but the stuff painterly expression. They give color life and the color gives life to their paintings. Finally, and more importantly, we see that color comes in many shapes and forms, not just rectangles, squares, and grids. It is the language they speak, not just an accent.Tags: gerhard richter, sol lewitt, minimalism, review, conceptual art, entertainment art
March 25, 2008 3 Comments