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Print Edition> Lifestyle
UPDATED: December 20, 2010 NO. 51 DECEMBER 23, 2010
Imperishable Ink
MFA's creative exhibition presents contemporary artists' response to classical works

What to Drive Out by Liu Xiaodong (COURTESY OF MFA)

Liu Xiaodong, Yu's husband, is an internationally acclaimed oil painter famous for his engagement with social issues in China. He chose to respond to the Erlang and His Soldiers Driving Out Animal Spirits, an ink and color on silk masterpiece of the 15th century, with a piece of acrylic on paper work What to Drive Out portraying nine high-school students in Boston areas. For this, his keen eyes focused on the issue of violence in American schools. He also invited students to write down their own thoughts on violence as colophons to his scroll. Liu said he hoped his work would have some positive meaning to society.

Shepherd-turned artist Qin Feng sought inspiration from the inscription of a bronze vessel of the 11th century B.C. His choice was the oldest object in the exhibition. Qin said he was astonished by the delicacy and detail of the artwork created several thousand years ago. He then created an installation of 15 folding books and 12 hanging scrolls painted with writings both ancient and of his own in response to the bronze.

Qin's reinterpretation of the bronze attracted Lynn Brown, a public middle school humanities teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who said she burst into tears as she came to the exhibition and saw the bronze section. "I think it was at that moment that I was fully aware of the continuity of these traditions, not in some hyper-academic isolated art history world sense, but in a breathing transformation of great power, beauty, irony and resonance. That bronze came to life," she said. She also said it was really wonderful for a person like her to be in that space—"not as an expert, but appreciating the art as object and the art as a beautifully layered process."

Other artists participating in this show are Li Huayi, Li Jin, Liu Dan, Qiu Ting, Xu Bing and Zeng Xiaojun, who wielded diverse styles in responding to the classical works from their unique points of views with eye-popping installations.

The exhibition runs through February next year. The project is being supported by the New York-based Asian Cultural Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Hong Kong-based Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation and the United Technologies Corporation.

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