Home » Report from New York: Loved & Loathed

Report from New York: Loved & Loathed


-CAI GUO QIANG AT THE GUGGENHEIM. What was not to love about this exhibition? The large atrium of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most beautiful building was filled top to bottom with eight white non-descript Chryslers spouting flashing, mulitcoloured tubes of light. Inopportune: Stage One, 2004 was meant to simulate a car bombing, the installation instead came off as celebratory. In the dark of the late afternoon, it felt like an art-disco.

The view from the top. Image: Courtesy viewoncanadianart.com

Children loved the pyrotechnics and videos of firecrackers and fire, interspersed with large installations of what appeared to be taxidermied animals, ships and sculpture, yet the show was conceptually rigorous and strongly political.

Cai Guo-Qiang, Head On, 2006. Image: caiguoqiang.com

Walking up the ramp, stuffed tigers shot through with arrows led to a fleet of stuffed wolves running up the Guggenheim’s curved ramp only to crash into a Plexiglas wall that sent them all tumbling backwards. A series of unfired clay sculptures of peasants (Venice’s Rent Collection Courtyard, 1999) were delicately cracking apart like Pompeian figures. Further along, they were deconstructed, their forms roughed out with beams and wire. In a side room, a wrecked ship from Qiang’s hometown was filled with broken China.

Cai Guo-Qiang, Black Rainbow: Explosion Project for Edinbrugh, 2005. Image: caiguoqiang.com

VoCA’s favorite thing was Black Rainbow: Explosion Project for Edinburgh, 2005, which had 14” black smoke shells shot into the air over three minutes, cracking like gunfire, tearing savage holes into the blue sky.

For much more info on the show and the works, please click HERE.


-MARCEL DZAMA AT DAVID ZWIRNER. OK, we didn’t loathe it. But we didn’t love it, either.

We liked most of the new large drawings, and we really enjoyed his collages, but didn’t see the point of the dioramas, though we hear they were inspired by a recent visit to Mexico, the artist Joseph Cornell and Duchamp.

(We LOVE the idea of dioramas, and the stage set that he had built – but we didn’t see a clear connection between the subject matter and the means of display.)

Marcel Dzama, The Banks of the Red River A Veritable Army of Underdogs, 2008.
Image: davidzwirner.com

Marcel Dzama, Untitled (Page 2 of 13), 2007. Image: davidzwirner.com

The silent Guy Maddin-style film was accompanied by a live pianist, a touch perhaps also taken from Maddin, whose live screening of his film Brand Upon the Brain! featured foley artists (and a castrato!)

Joseph Cornell, Tilly Losch, 1935. Image: jazztelia.com

Anyway, Dzama’s film involved lots of costumed animals dancing around and an illustrator’s drawings coming to life. It was clearly influenced by Maddin, even in its tendency to be overly long. In Dzama’s case, the length ended up sucking all initial interest we had of the film so by the end, we were just itching to leave.

Marcel Dzama, Still from The Lotus Eaters, 2001-07. Image: creativereview.co.uk

10 Responses to “Report from New York: Loved & Loathed”

  1. max says:

    The Cai Guo Qiang show was more art disco, as you say, than political. It felt celebratory to me. If it was political it was somehow marxist, maybe because of the creation through burning or destruction idea in Cai’s process. Someone said the work stood as a critique of collective action and collective thinking, but at the same time it seems to celebrate those things.

  2. Wil says:

    Having not experienced much work from Asia on this scale, I found the thread of craftsmenship, honour, and pride to be very refreshing, and interesting themes to pursue in a practice. This felt to be a very Anti-Western exhibitions, I left it having felt cautioned and reprimanded for the Western worlds inability to connect to these themes in art previously. I think each work he is producing situates itself in a very political arena.

  3. Andrea says:

    I felt it really spoke to the changes happening in China, the rise of the new China against the old, especially the sculptural pieces like the tigers struck with arrows but still filled with fighting spirit..I liked the time-based feel of the sculptural installations, too. How the clay figures were fragile, broken and then stripped down to their bare skeletons..

  4. Marc says:

    And funny that the first comment here mentions Marxism – the irony is that the concept of creative destruction is also central to capitalism. Grasping an idea that’s essential to both capitalist/marxist and eastern/western thought was, to me, absolutely fantastic, and I think captured Cai’s purpose. This was the most brilliant (and frankly, cool) effort to do so I’ve seen.

    Glad you enjoyed the exhibit as much as I did Andrea!

  5. max says:

    Hmmm, I suppose the skeletal figures are deconstructed versions of socialist realism, and as such they must stand as a critique of that art form. I’m just remembering how the weapons became even more noticeable on the wire skeletons.

  6. Bill says:

    I’d also recommend that people who visit the Guggenheim take a bit of time and step into the From Berlin to New York exhibition, as well. It’s a small exhibition of really fine paintings from the collection of Karl Nierendorf, a German art dealer in the 1920s. The lovely Klees and a couple of atypical Kokochskas make for a quieter and contemplative break from the crowded and noisy spectacle of the Qiang show (which, I agree, was pretty amazing).

  7. Andrea says:

    Yes, definitely. Any chance to see work by Paul Klee is recommended by VoCA – big time!

  8. Cassie says:

    ‘GUGGENHEIM. What was not to love about this exhibition? The large atrium of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most beautiful building’

    Um, Frank Gehry?

  9. Andrea says:

    I’m not sure what you mean by “Um, Frank Gehry”?

  10. Gabby says:

    I think maybe there is some confusion here between the Bilbao Guggenheim (designed by Frank Gehry) and the original New York Guggenheim (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright)? I’m pretty sure Andrea is talking about the one in NYC (Lloyd Wright).

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