“Daring … exciting … new.” That’s the way curator Wu Hung describes The Allure of Matter: Material Art From China, an exhibit that uses unconventional materials as the base of massive works of art spreading across two venues.
Twenty-six contemporary artists from China use materials like human fat and gunpowder to create critiques of culture or reflections on politics. But, Hung says, regardless of their medium, the visual aesthetics are still a driving force.
Below are four of the works featured in the exhibit, which is showing at the Smart Museum of Art and Wrightwood 659 through May. Both venues have free admission.
Nearly 40 feet long and 15 feet across, Bing’s “tiger skin rug” definitely demands a closer look. The work is made of approximately 500,000 individual cigarettes. Bing was inspired to create the work during a residency at Duke University in Raleigh, North Carolina, said Smart Museum’s Orianna Cacchione. Bing was struck by the strong smell of tobacco, Cacchione said, so he started researching the industry and its global reach. 1st Class is part of a series of works entitled Tobacco Project.
This six-panel screen was created through a method invented by the artist that turns gunpowder into a paint-like substance. Curator Wu Hung said gunpowder was invented in China and considered an “elixir of immortality.” It still has a dual meaning, he said. It can be used for fireworks to celebrate, but explosions are present in war and violence, too.
Untitled 1 by Gu Dexin requires its own room, and this is the first time the work is being shown in the U.S. Dexin originally created the piece made of melted plastic for the Magiciens de la terre exhibition in Paris in 1989. Cacchione said that even though plastic is seen as indestructible and everlasting, it’s actually actively deteriorating.
“united nations american code”
Initially, the multi-colored canopy looks like it’s woven from yarn. Upon closer inspection, it’s hard to imagine how much hair the artist, gu wenda, used to create the work. Hair is a main source material in wenda’s art. united nations: american code was commissioned for The Allure of Matter exhibit.