On view until December 22 at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art is a stunning and fascinating exhibition featuring the work of eight contemporary Chinese women artists. “Breakthrough” examines such issues as globalization and modern culture, and the tension between contemporary women’s identity and traditional gender roles in China.
The artists featured in “Breakthrough” include Cai Jin, Cao Fei, Chen Qiulin, Hung Liu, Lin Tianmiao, Peng Wei, Xing Danwen, and Yin Xiuzhen.
Each artists has a unique view. Their art represents not only different styles and media, but also different stories. I found the artwork to be rich and engaging and it opened my mind to some ideas that I hadn’t had much exposure to previously.
Peng Wei’s series of sculptures made with the torsos of female mannequins subvert traditional modes of Chinese art and culture in wonderful ways.
Hung Liu creates drip-style oil paintings that combine archival photographs and traditional Chinese symbols. Cai Jin paints abstracted banana plants on embroidered Chinese silk.
The three-dimensional works of Lin Tianmiao are quite unusual (detail pictured above). She utilizes texture in delightful and unexpected ways. This is the kind of art that has strong visual appeal both up close and at a distance.
Chen Qiulin’s post-apocalyptic photographs have a dark mood, with deep, saturated tones contrasted with washed out whites. The scenes depicted in her work are strangely beautiful.
I loved the sly humor in Cao Fei’s photographs and video related to her “COSplayers” series. Cosplay is a form of role play in which participants dress in elaborate costumes, most frequently of anime (Japanese animation) characters. The juxtaposition of reality and fantasy is one I think we can all relate to on some level.
Humor, as well as melodrama, plays a role in Xing Danwen’s digitally manipulated photographs as well. She digitally inserts herself and others into photographs of architectural models from real estate showrooms, injecting human stories into sterile, homogenous environments.
Yin Xiuzhen’s “Yin Xiuzhen” (pictured above) is a unique self portrait. The piece is comprised of ten color photographs of the artist at different ages that are “mounted” within pairs of black cotton shoes. The shoes are reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, when a standard dress code was enforced.
On October 20 at 2 PM there will be a gallery talk for museum members. On November 7 at 7 PM in the Kresge Auditorium, Hung Liu will hold a lecture, “Summoning Ghosts,” about her creative process and personal history.