Four sculptures by Chinese artists are temporarily on display along the Boeing Gallery in Millennium Park. I didn't find any of them to be particularly moving. It is interesting, as I often discover, to try to make sense of sculptures in light of what the artists say about them. Interesting, but rarely successful … (The comments below the photos come from the brochure I picked up by the sculptures.)
Jia Shan Shi No 46 (2001) by Zhan Wang
Zhan Wang has become world famous for his stainless steel copies of "scholars' rocks" found in classical Chinese gardens. By hammering a pliable sheet of steel over a scholar's rock, he reproduces every minute undulation on the stone's surface. To him, both the original rock and his stainless copy are material forms created for people's spiritual needs, but their different materiality reflects the cultural transformations in changing times. With their glittering surface and illusory appearance, his stainless rocks symbolize the adaptation of Chinese cultural tradition to today's conditions and new aesthetics.
Good luck trying to satisfy your spiritual needs by staring at a silver rock.
Valiant Struggle No. 11 (2006) by Chen Wenlin
The youngest of the four artists, Chen Wenling most acutely responds to the heightened commercialism and materialism that has seized Chinese society in recent years. Made of stainless steel and painted red and gold, his sculptures frequently consist of blissful, self-indulgetn human and animal figures, who embrace one another in tight, three-dimensional clusters. Chen derives the pig motif — one of his signature images — from the folk art of his birthplace in Fujian, turning this local symbol of wealth into an icon of contemporary Chinese society. Displaying a highly organic style, these images are at once fantastic, ironic, satiric, and comical.
And goofy. Don't forget goofy.
Kowtow Pump (2007) by Shen Shaomin
Shen Shaomin has been pushing the boundaries of Chinese experimental art. Kowtow Pump is inspired by his childhood growing up near one of China's major oil fields. Locals called the numerous machines standing among their schools, hospitals and residences "Kowtow" for their fhythmic, up-and-down movements. By refitting the mechanical transmission, Shen changes the pumps' stable, uniform motions into twitching, convulsing gestures, struggling to complete the task. The work forges a contemporary allegory for the dangerous dependence of modern society on oil production.
I suspect that this work, wherever it was located (and particularly with the fence around it) conveys the meaning of "under construction." To be fair, it wasn't moving when I saw it.
Windy City Dinosaur (2009) by Sui Jianguo
Sui Jianguo's sculptures often respond to China's social and political transformation, and reflect on cultural clashes in the process of globalization. With "Made in China" engraved on their chests, his larger-than-life toy dinosaurs reference the cheap, mass-produced goods that have become a foundation of the booming Chinese export economy. Witty and incisive, such works question the source of China's economic prowess as well as a stereotypical image of China in the West.
I was in the area for several minutes, but I never saw the dinosaur respond to anything.