The Mental Museum

Archive for October 2008

Yan Pei Ming and Francis Bacon

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Yan Pei Ming is a Chinese contemporary artist born in 1960. He is most famous for his epic-sized portraits of Mao Zedong, a common icon in Chinese contemporary art. His portraits use a loose expressive brush. In comparison with his contemporaries coming from communist China, it is surprising his work takes on such individuality. Often subjects in contemporary Chinese art are represented by the masses as a single unit that share features, expressions, motions, ideologies… Here Ming accentuates the individual with his larger than life single portraits. His Pape, 2004 is seen above, left. A calm, controlled regulated Pope sits pensive in thought. His body language, while probably not accurately representing his thoughts, alludes quite well to where his thoughts may be taking him. Juxtaposed to this, is Fransis Bacon’s Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953. Bacon was a British painter born in 1909 and died in 1992. His work generally embodies quite obvious nightmare-esque imagery. Much of his work has Catholic influence, ideas of hell and damnation and crucifixtion. Perhaps these ideas stemmed from his intimate relationship with homosexuality. His fear of how the Catholic church might take him and how he might be accepted in the eyes of God seem to explode off the canvas. So, we are left with the same exact figurative subject, however one may express feelings of guilt while the other may speak of secular dissatisfaction.

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October 30, 2008 at 1:30 pm

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Bai Yiluo

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Civilization, 2007

Born in 1968, Bai Yiluo is a contemporary artist from western China. His work, like that of many of his contemporaries, is influenced greatly by China’s relatively new socioeconomic structure. His work disassociates the viewer with any notion of individual characters, creating a feeling of isolation within solid and impenetrable unity. His structured, organized and controlled works represent China’s ancient history in the context of today’s society. One can’t help but reference Ancient China’s Terracotta Army discovered only recently in the 1970’s. Unearthed by local farmers near the Xi’an, Shaanxi province nearly 9,000 ancient statued soldiers and cavalry have been accounted. Built to protect the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang in his grave and in the afterlife, the ranked soldiers bore bronze weapons of that day and age, BC. However, the original weapons were stolen shortly after their creation, leaving the terracotta army unarmed, and the deceased Emperor and first empire metaphysically unprotected in its death. Yiluo’s recent work made also of terracotta titled Civilization introduces agricultural tools as weaponry, piercing and protecting itself from the busts of western classics. These long lost weapons from the first Chinese dynasty perhaps have experienced rebirth through Yiluo’s vision, representing conflict, revolution and the isochronal qualities of nature, art, history and the manifestation of civilization.

Fate No. 4

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October 27, 2008 at 12:09 pm

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Abelardo Morell

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Camera Obscura: The Pantheon in Albergo Del Sole al Pantheon room #111, Rome, Italy 2008

The camera obscura was one of the first inventions that led to the discovery of photography. It is an optical device that was used as an aid for drawing and represents the first cinematic concepts. The basic notion is that light passing through a single hole will project the image of what the light touches on an opposite wall. The history and evolution of the camera obscura is intricate. Greek philosopher Aristotle and Chinese philosopher, Mozi were the first to experiment with such image projecting concepts. They helped pave the way for Iraqi scientist, Ibn al-Haitham who in fact built the very first camera obscura in the early 1000s AD. Today fine art photographers incorporate these early image capturing concepts into their contemporary work by using pinhole cameras or constructing their own (quite simple) camera obscuras.

Cuban artist, Abelardo Morell is one such photographer. Traveling to various cities around the world, he books hotel rooms overlooking beautiful cityscapes. He transforms his room itself into a camera obscura and projects the outside world into his temporary abode. The finished piece is a photograph of these projections in which he has optically woven the inside with the outside. Morell is currently a professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art.

Camera Obscura: View of Central Park Looking North – Summer 2008

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October 12, 2008 at 4:29 pm

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Marc Quinn

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British sculptor Marc Quinn is keeping up with his contemporaries. Since he was in fact the first artist to be represented by White Cube British art dealer, Jay Jopling, followed shortly by the patronage of Iraqi advertising emperor Charles Saatchi, perhaps one should state his fellow British contemporaries are keeping up with him. His most recent and headlining piece is a 50kg sold gold sculpture titled Siren which portrays supermodel and label icon, Kate Moss. (Cast model seen above). Greek mythology states that the Sirens were dangerously seductive bird like women who lived near the water and among rocky cliffs. The statue now stands prominently in the British Museum’s Statuephilia exhibition in London alongside anthropological icons such as ancient mummies, Greek columns and Mesopotamian sculptures.

What Quinn has presented us with seems to be a perfect example of society beginning to masturbate itself. In his own work, British artist Martin Creed stated the infamous neon“The Whole World + The Work = The Whole World.” Somehow this is relevant. With this kind of art in the context of today’s first world society, the chicken does not seem to be flying far from the coop. The ideas that generate, for instance, a solid gold statue of Kate Moss with her legs behind her head, seem to be caught in a very small bottle, self perpetuating and incestuous. First world contemporary society commenting on contemporary society, being bought and sold and sponsored by… members of the first world’s contemporary society. However, its revolutionary! Its contemporary! The question should be; How long is this conceptual journey, (which ends not far from it’s start) ? If the answer is; Long enough to create a full circle through art history and ending in the now, then that is justifiable. However, if the answer is; One small step to the left, we have a serious intellectual problem. We can’t avoid the cultural connotations that Quinn’s highly celebrated new work suggests. And I may be answering my own question by pointing out that we can’t help but reference former Aphrodites in art history. Compare graceful and poised sculptures such as Venus de Milo or the Nike of Samothrace to what is being offered as the contemporary vision. Contemporary society commenting on and being inspired by contemporary society is proving to gentrify itself. Although art is only one facet, it succeeds in documenting and in turn provoking this social and ideological gentrification. Slowly and maybe even unconsciously we then experience our ideals, our notions of self, our notions of beauty and our notions of acceptability and our expectations to evolve and/or regress.

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October 2, 2008 at 10:02 pm

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