by Melissa Weissert
Millennium Park in Chicago is home to an exhibit featuring sculptures never before been seen in the United States. A Conversation with Chicago: Contemporary Sculptures from China displays four sculptures from some of China’s leading artists.
“Chinese contemporary art has become very popular in the last few years,” says Wu Hung, co-curator of the exhibit. “China is an emerging country, economically, and has a growing impact on the city of Chicago.” The exhibit aims to bring a global conversation about China to the city.
Wu, who is the University of Chicago Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History and a consulting curator for the Smart Museum of Art, served as co-curator of the exhibit ith Millennium Park staff. A Beijing native, he knows some of China’s most important artists. When choosing sculptures to be presented, he looked for those that were more than visually appealing. “It needed to have a message. The work should deliver some real information on society because it needed to start the conversation between China and Chicago,” he says.
Each artist uses his art to address contemporary issues. One sculpture, Chen Wenlin’s “Valiant Struggle No. 11,” may appear whimsical but has a deeper meaning. The sculpture is a red cartoonish car that has a long tongue extending upward from which three large, gold figures – a pig, a man and a woman – hang. “You can see the dark side. It makes comments on greed, materialism and gluttony,” Wu says. Another sculpture with a hidden meaning is Sui Jianguo’s “Windy City Dinosaur.” Made especially for the exhibit, the red openwork T.rex has “Made in China” stamped on its stomach. Two other sculptures, Shen Shaomin’s “Kowtow Pump” and Zhan Wang’s “Jia Shan Shi No. 46,” address issues of oil dependence and losing tradition.
“I hope this exhibit will deliver different messages to different people,” Wu says. “More thoughtful people may be able to see the hidden message of the sculptures.
Younger people may just be amused by the fanciful and funny designs, which is fine. On that level, they still start a conversation with China and learn.”
The sculptures will be exhibited in the Boeing Galleries in Millennium Park until October 2010.
Illinois Issues, December 2009