Illuminating the Darkness
Young Chinese artists aim to penetrate mainstream art circles in the U.S.
By Yu Shujun  ·  2018-07-31  ·   Source: | Web Exclusive
Visitors explore the inside of Bogger City, an artwork by He Nandan Sam, at the Novado Gallery on July 28 (COURTESY OF NOVADO GALLERY)
At a gallery across the river from Lower Manhattan, visitors are attracted by a nose-shaped box. After putting their heads inside the “nose” through the “nostrils,” they’re surprised to see a miniature city. “I made it interactive, so that visitors can have fun,” He Nandan Sam, the artist, told Beijing Review at the opening of the weeklong exhibition Illumination in the Black Box on July 28.

The purpose of this artwork, Bogger City, is far more than “just for fun.” Its introduction reads: When a person enters a space, the space also enters the person’s mind; exploring the unknown space is irresistible for human beings, which throw them into a “black box” again and again.

The “black box” refers to a dark space where things are imbued with a sense of the unknown and the possibility of danger, compared to a white space, where everything is bright, informative and explicit, Lin Zi, the curator of the exhibition, told Beijing Review. Lin, who holds a Master’s degree in art criticism and writing from the School of Visual Art in New York City, is also an art critic.

The theme Illumination in the Black Box comes from the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, according to Lin. Emotionally and phenomenologically, people experience daytime and nighttime with diverse mindsets, hence our inception on understanding of the world. Sloterdijk explicitly distinguishes these dualist worldviews in his book The Aesthetic Imperative.


Art lovers interact with the exhibition at the Novado Gallery on July 28 (COURTESY OF NOVADO GALLERY) 

The exhibition displays the works of He and three other young Chinese artists—Wang Xun, Mao Juyi and Guo Chuxi, all of whom are from the Fine Art Master Program of the Maryland Institute College of Art. Each of their works focuses on one of the “black boxes” that Sloterdijk features in his book—image, body, fire, book, city, politics and sci-tech.

Wang’s Fire Drawings reveal the beauty of a fire as a creative medium through paper residues.

Different from traditional “black boxes”—city and fire—presented by He and Wang respectively, Mao’s video work Perfect Audience shows dynamic visual images with audio sounds that paradoxically instruct viewers to “correctly” appreciate the images.

Guo also presents a video work The Human Extinction Project in Movies, which removes human images from a human-centered narrative movie, predicting the upcoming AI era.

The exhibition has attracted several U.S. artists, which breaks the curse that Chinese artists’ exhibitions in the New York City can only gain Chinese attention. “Art has no boundaries,” said Lin.

Through the exhibition, Lin and the artists have also entered into partnerships with several U.S. artists including Charlee Swanson, Frank Gavere and Brian Gustafson. “The exhibition makes it possible that Chinese artists can enter into the U.S. mainstream art circles and U.S. mainstream artists can reach out to Chinese art stages, thus becoming a platform for communication and cooperation,” said Lin.

The exhibition is also the first of the Novado Gallery’s Curatorial Project, which aims to provide opportunities for international artists to show their talent. “The Curatorial Project is to enhance the internationality and multiplicity in the field of art and culture, while U.S. politics is increasingly turning to solidity,” said Anne Novado, director of the Novado Gallery.

(Reporting from New York)

Copyedited by Francisco Little

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