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Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win
Young Chinese Art at the 60 Wall Street Gallery

Deutsche Bank New York's 60 Wall Street Gallery introduces a new generation of Chinese artists. Their works make a radical break with the clichés ordinarily associated with Chinese art. Achim Drucks on the show Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win.

Annysa Ng, Tea, Silk and Porcelain IV, 2007,
Courtesy of the Artist and Vanina Holasek gallery

The female figure with the lavish frill collar seems right out of a baroque Dutch painting. Yet the impression is deceiving. The garment and ruffles are inspired by Chinese fashion. The elegant women in Annysa Ng's silhouette drawings are hybrid constructs that merge elements of western and eastern culture. In her paper works and sculptures, the Hong Kong-born artist explores the influences of colonialism as well as images of women in male-dominated societies.

Annysa Ng, Tea, Silk and Porcelain II, 2007,
Courtesy of the Artist and Vanina Holasek gallery

Young Chinese art has long been undergoing a boom. The record-breaking auction results of recent years prove that contemporary art from the People's Republic comprises one of the fastest growing sectors of the art market worldwide. The Guggenheim Museum in New York, for instance, is giving Cai Guo-Qiang a spectacular solo show, the first Chinese artist to receive this honor. On the other hand, a tremendous amount is happening in the country itself: in the early 1990s, there were a mere five galleries in Peking, and since then the number has grown to over a hundred offering a forum to native artists. And there's another thing happening on the young Chinese scene: with protagonists like Annysa Ng, a new generation is forming that doesn't limit itself to stereotypical "Chinese" motifs and themes or produce the usual mixture of Pop and communist Agitprop.

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win is the programmatic title of the show at the 60 Wall Street Gallery of Deutsche Bank New York, which presents a highly divergent picture of the scene. The exhibition's curator, Eric C. Shiner, had already organized Making a Home: Japanese Contemporary Artists in New York at Japan Society; he also works as editor of the magazine ArtAsiaPacific. To his mind, Chinese art no longer focuses on local themes: "The new generation is choosing instead to work in an international system that melds together styles and philosophies culled from the global stage upon which they play." Indeed, the works currently on show at Deutsche Bank New York are diametrically opposed to the many works commonly associated with contemporary Chinese art - such as the bald grimacing heads that brought Fang Lijun international success. The artists in the show have departed from this "Cynical Realism," which has almost reached the point of cliché.

O Zhang, from the series Horizon , 2004,
Courtesy CRG Gallery, NY

Almost all of them are under 40 and live in New York. This also goes for the photographer O Zhang, whose portraits from the larger series Horizon were made in central China, where he photographed young girls in a remote village. The larger-than-life prints are ordered in three rows: the girls in the top row gaze down at the viewer, the middle row is at eye level, and the bottom row is peering up. The austere presentation of the works, reminiscent of Becher typologies and Minimalist grid structures, subtracts the sweetness from these images of colorfully dressed children, while the individual portraits form a collective that expresses a hope for a better future.

Ride me like a cowboy (the new China) #1 & #2, 2007
Courtesy of the Artist

Samson Young's Kiddie Rides, on the other hand, have nothing to do with childish innocence. For his work Ride Me like a Cowboy, the artist and composer added a small video monitor to two of the electric coin-operated riding automats for children of the kind one finds outside supermarkets. When you throw a quarter in, the garishly colored toy, Made in China, jolts into motion to the tune of a spry melody. In the meantime, the screen is playing footage of the student protests on Peking's Tiananmen Square, which were violently repressed by the regime. The work's subtitle, The New China, suggests that the artist would like it to be understood as a commentary on the current situation in the People's Republic. Hiding behind the image the country propagates to the outside world of a land that successfully unites communist ideology and capitalist business lies another reality entirely.

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