“Tales of Two Cities: New York & Beijing” is an engaging new exhibit of contemporary art at Greenwich’s Bruce Museum.
By Arthur Stampleman
“Tales of Two Cities: New York & Beijing” is an engaging new exhibit of contemporary art at Greenwich’s Bruce Museum. The unusual concept for this show will make for a positive experience for both those that frequent contemporary art exhibits and those who avoid them. Visitors will see works with unique appeal that are reinforced by the setting.
The show presents two-dozen works by ten artists, most abstract, some representational. A range of media is represented, including painting, calligraphy, collage, installations, and photographs. The works range from a 1983 painting by Joan Snyder in the Bruce collection to pieces created by several artists specifically for this exhibition.
The unusual aspect of the show was the pairing of artists starting two years ago, five New York-based and five Beijing-based. The co-curators and advisors of the exhibit are Michelle Y. Loh, Pan Qing, Sarah McNaughton, and John Rajchman, who are associated with Columbia University and art institutions in Beijing. Their aim was to create five different global, cross-cultural, artistic dialogues and collaborations and then present the works in an exhibition. The effort involved interaction via email, Skype, and in-person meetings, sometimes with the assistance of translators.
The artist pairings are:
Joan Snyder (NYC) and Wei Jia (Beijing);n Alois Kronschlaeger (NYC) and Lin Yan (Beijing); Michelle Fornabai (NYC) and Qin Feng (Beijing); Jorge Tacla (NYC) and Li Taihuan (Beijing), and
Simon Lee (NYC) and Chen Shaoxiong (Beijing).
Some of the New York-based artists hail from other countries, but they have long-established studios here.
The curators matched the pairs based partly on the kind of work that the artists do and their artistic processes, and on the type of dialogue(s) in which they suspected the artists might engage.
At the symposium at the show’s opening it was apparent that some dialogues worked better than others. But all the pairings succeed in helping viewers appreciate the work and technique of each artist beside that of his or her partner.
Highly abstract work with multiple layers of paint and other materials are central to the four pieces on display by Snyder and Wei. Snyder’s 1983 and 2013 works are both large oil and acrylic paintings, the later one with unusual materials such as berries and herbs. Wei’s gouaches feature charcoal, ink, pastel, and modern calligraphy.
Kronschlaeger and Lin will be the featured pairing for regular Bruce visitors because of how their site-specific installations transform gallery space. Kronschlaeger assembled a work consisting of large multicolor cubes made of basswood filling the height of the round atrium off the main gallery. He visited the museum a year ago and requested that the alcove’s windows be uncovered to highlight the work he planned. Lin positioned her site-specific piece evoking Beijing roof tiles to work best with Kronschlaeger’s installation, evidencing a good dialogue between these artists.
The team that provided the impetus for the Bruce exhibit was Fornabai and Qin who both work with ink, the former represented by unusual assemblages and the latter with modern calligraphy and screens. It grew out of a spontaneous collaboration between the two artists that was curated by Pan in Beijing in 2010. Watching the two artists communicate silently through the brush helped her see the possibilities of visual dialogues between artists from very different artistic backgrounds.
Man-made and natural disasters in the urban landscape, captured in acrylic or oil on canvas, are the subjects common to Tacia and Li. Tacia portrays events from earthquakes to the Oklahoma City bombing. He takes a photograph, transfers it to a canvas, and paints an image with one color for all shapes and another for all lines, creating what looks like photograph negatives. Li responds to pollution in China’s cities by painting city scenes in a style that seems like Impressionism covered by smog.
Chen and Lee both work with photographs. Chen photographs the chaos of city growth, which he transcribes into ink drawings assembled in a video. Lee also creates movement, but with seven lenticular prints, each one made up of two or three random photographs superimposed on one another.
The exhibit runs through August 31. Museum hours are 10 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 Sundays. Docent tours are offered most Fridays at 12:30.