China Avant Garde
Lin Tianmiao, Sheng Qi, Huang Yan , Shi Zhongying, Song Yonghong, Zhao Nengzhi, Ai Weiwei, Guo Wei, Guo Jin, Sun Yuan, The Gao Brothers, Hong Hao
Curated by Christine Duval
May 7th- June 18th, 2005
Reception: May 7th, 6:00 to 8:00pm                                    

ARENA 1  A project of Santa Monica Art Studios  
3026 Airport Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90405
310/ 397-7456, fax 310/ 397-7459
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Gallery Hours: Wed – Sat  12 noon  to 6 pm                

Hong Hao, "The Long March in Panjlayue", 2004, cibachrome, 127 x 230 cm.

ARENA 1 is pleased to announce an exhibition of contemporary Chinese art, the 3rd curated show in the new gallery space at Santa Monica Art Studios. San Francisco based Christine Duval who has been working with artists from mainland China for the past several years as director of LIMN Gallery is guest curator.

The face in China is important; it was all that was allowed in propaganda posters and official paintings in Mao’s era. Since the communist system heavily favors the collectivity, this focus on the individual is an expression of contemporary artistic liberty as well as a novelty yet to be fully explored. China Avant Garde presents the varied explorations of a group of renowned contemporary Chinese artists of this new face of their country.

For Lin Tianmiao in “Here? or There?” that search results in an elaborate meditation on ghosts, change, memory and fashion. Surreal color-drained figures dance mysteriously through a mutating urban landscape. The overall effect is enthralling, a lyrical exploration of local and historical persistence - tinted by the sadness of old photographs.

Sheng Qi’s photographs represent his own mutilated hand, symbolizing a part Qi left behind when he moved to London in the late 80’s shortly after the Tiannamen Square incident. Qi has since used his hand as a blank canvas to display family pictures and political meeting memorabilia, immediately addressing the social confrontation of the past and present China.

Huang Yan is one of the few contemporary artists to draw directly from the past to comment and reflect on the present. Yan’s white porcelain Mao busts are delicately hand painted all over with traditional blue lotus flower pattern as if Mao were the maker of Spring. His scroll-like Chinese landscape shoots through a bright color canvas like a laser beam of ancient light traveling through a painting of Luciano Fontana.

Shi Zhongying’sHomage to Giacometti” employs fine skills in metal welding. His elongated figures express loneliness and vulnerability but also a feeling of movement and life.

Zhao Nengzhi’s work is typical of many of Sichuan artists - lyrical and subtle. Nengzhi’s grey portraits are more than a face. They capture temperament and transfer mood and emotions. In “Bath of Consolation”, Song Yonghong’s latest series, three fundamentals are present: background, person and water. The colors are rich and the force of the water gushing onto the body is sensual and exciting.

The Gao Brothers are the rare internationally acclaimed artists who are still victimized by censorship and travel restrictions. “The Utopia of Hugging” is an ongoing performance via the internet. For them a hug stands for an ideal, a sense of freedom as well as a commitment.

Guo Wei concentrates on scenes from every day life in his paintings, focusing on the individual rather than on grander social issues. He explores the restless nature of teenage children, searching for the expression of an emotion as well as an image.

Hong Hao newest series “ My Things” are composed of thousands of scanned images of objects from his own life. This accretion of things is a powerful visual metaphor for the contradictory messages of contemporary Chinese life, the continued presence of communism and memories of the Cultural Revolution for his generation.

Guo Jin’s paintings appear as joyful renditions of childhood Most of his figures remind us of those delightful moments of childhood that are dimmed as the weight of adult concerns dominate life. This series is also about imagination and the freedom of choice facing a child. An antique collector himself, Ai Weiwei masterfully deconstructs Qing, Ming tables, stools and benches according to the very same strict moral and structural rules of classical Chinese construction; their shapes, however, seem to have come into existence by themselves, almost spontaneously.

Sun Yuan is an influential young artist based in Beijing. His series of double portraits are created by seamlessly blending two left or two right sides of his sitter’s face. His body of work addresses the explosion of cosmetic surgery in Asia as the young generation responds to pressure to alter their physical appearance in order to stand out from one another. Black hair and slanted eyes replaced by blond locks and fake eyelashes - another indication of this search for a new identity.

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