New Situation: EM Staff Select
Through the entirety of the 1960s, contemporary art, especially pop art, spread to the public rapidly and was at once commercialized. During this time, two critical exhibitions “When Attitudes Become Form” and “Op Losse Schroeven(Situations and Cryptostructures)“ opened up an new form that emphasized the possibility of intelligent interpretation to art while opposing previous commercial modes of art making and exhibition.
This division has lasted to the present. We continue what we have been doing for the past 50 years: contemporary art continues proliferate in our lives and the market continues to rapidly co-opt. Now, we realize that it is impossible to separate art from commerce wholly. Curatorial shows and biennials born from these two exhibitions eventually fragmented into parts of the art market. From 2020 to 2021, we are faced with another hurdle. The difficulty of travel indicates the impossibility of the biennial form and venue. Through these transformations, what is there left of art?
“Opposing traditional and commercial ways of art and exhibition, emphasizing the possibility of intelligent interpretation to art.” This is the main concept for Each Modern’s exhibition plan in 2021. From here, we introduce new and current art, and reinterpret the post-war art and art that beckons further research.
As such, Each Modern’s first 2021 exhibition “New Situation” presents works selected by the gallery staff to review and reinterpret our past exhibitions and artists at the beginning of a new year.
Murphy Chang: Faith In What We Believe
In November 1988, Moriyama Daido traveled to Paris by himself. He tried to find a place to exhibit his works but for various reasons was unable. Nonetheless, Moriyama was able to photograph the city and published “A Tale of 2 Cities, Paris”. Within the series, a stunning photograph shows a whale balloon floating in the air. It is surreal and immersive.
São Paulo-based artist Lin YiHsuan uses abstract painting to present his life abroad. For Lin, art making is not only about one’s practice, it is also about the process of moving from county to country. “Two Friends” was made during his residency at ISCP, New York in 2019 and it contains his recognizable abstract elements and symbols. The world was hit by the pandemic just a few months after his residency ended.
We will surely travel again after the pandemic, but what has changed? There will be new orders in the places we have visited before. However, we should make pains to persevere, and have faith in the art we believe in, no matter what we encounter in this new world, just as Moriyama Daido and Lin YiHsuan have done.
Lan ChungHsuan: The Tranquil Landscape
Aside from his well-known derisive and “rough” historical portraitures, Zhao Gang has also created poetic landscape paintings. The prospective of Zhao’s landscape paintings are at once immense and delicate, nostalgic and tranquil. After the outbreak of the pandemic, Zhao’s “Coronavirus” series of still lifes made during lockdown led him to a new position. The window views and everyday objects become his reliable stand-bys and narrative. In “Capital”, Zhao Gang paints a harmonious landscape that is rare to see in his practice. It is like a scene before a disaster, a quiet moment among his criticisms of greater history.
Taking photography as a means of documenting, Nakahira Takuma’s later color works are also about capturing landscape. Nakahira’s life was a restless fight with the outside world: clashing with Japanese post-war society as a left-wing writer, establishing “Provoke” to redefine photography, and setting fire to his own photographs in an act of self-denial. We might even say he was fighting his own photography. Nakahira returned to his degree zero – Yokohama, the city he photographed the most after his recovery from a debilitating illness. There, he produced his color photographs– direct, minor, peaceful, and hermetic.
The chaos of 2020 is not expected to be gone on the first day of the New Year. It is just an artificial time unit that divides nothing. However, what Zhao Gang and Nakahira Takuma’s landscapes tend to remind us of are the things we neglect because of the noisy voices. To pull out from the unclear situation, to deviate from the noise and the mess. That is what I long for in 2021.
Chester Chou: Back to the Begining
Xu Jiong uses auction catalogues as the background of his work. He mixes poems by the famous Tang Dynasty poet Jia Dao and his own practice to rebelliously compare himself in contrast to this classic art. The values of the expensive works printed in the catalogues are actually invalid. Still, Xu creates a whole new definition for them through his art and asks the audience to rethink the meaning and the worth of these masterpieces.
Wu MeiChi magically transforms collected daily objects and gifts into gorgeous photographs to create her own unique universe. By suppressing and rearranging this space, Wu puts things from different dimensions into a frame and redefines them.
Both Wu and Xu redefine ready-mades from their own personal perspectives. In 2021’s first exhibition, I hope that we can all return to where we began and find the other side of our life.
Huang ZiHsuan: The Inner Search in the Torrent
We build our insight of the world through self-reflection, examination, questioning, and reviewing others. This is what an artist will confront over and over again in his or her career. In 2020, this normality is more obvious due to the particular atmosphere and current physical limitations.
Imagine we all came from the same origin and are all heading to the same place, without concept or notion. There is only the power of the physical. In Wu MeiChi’s “YXX”, we put ourselves in the creative process of reality and illusion. Then, we push to a deeper, naked inner part composed by the arrangement of the objects and the light. It is a place where rationality would not approach. It is not just a photograph; it is a desire towards this place.
The body records vulnerable crying, shouting, and joyful moans. Ling Yung delicately and methodical transforms all these feelings into lines, brushes, and colors. She creates a spacious plane for our spirits and invites the audience to communicate in a universal way – through emotions.
The two works I have selected are both about the spiritual self-rescue of the artists. They explore themselves deeply and they release themselves to the world. A tension caused by the balance of the inner and the external appears. In an era with so much complex information, how do we maintain our sense of keen observation? Art is like an event, reminding us in a profound way.
Wu MeiChi: The Balance Between the World and Ourselves
In the disordered world Huang HaiHsin humorously presents us with the out-of-control status of people all over the world. It is like watching comedy on TV. At the end, we hear the laugh track. Huang’s 2020 series “99 Cent” is more like an intensive thriller than an absurd comedy. It is satisfying and it brings us anxiety and tension. “99 Cent” is different from the street scenes and tourists she often portrays. For the first time, Huang appropriates the images of products from the Chinese dollar stores in New York into her paintings. The series reveals the conflicts between local consumer culture and ethnic identity.
There is always a strong power in the worlds within Lin YiHsuan’s art. For years, he lived in different countries with different identities. The struggle and the transformation he experienced is not only born from society but also environment. Lin’s “Mosquito” series began in 2014. The mosquito was once the symbol of tropical disease like Dengue Fever and the Zika Virus, and is now a continuous theme in the artist’s painting. This is how Lin coexists with the mosquito.
Huang and Lin’s daily diary of life in New York and São Paulo demonstrate the balance they’ve achieved between themselves and the chaotic worlds that surround them. That is what I want to learn recently.
Huang Yaji: Re-understand by Intellect
When we look back at the past 20 years of contemporary art development, due to vestiges of history or the joyful allure of nostalgia, there will be art that is re-affirmed. Yet, there are also works that continuously advance forward to break through the limits of “era” and create eternal beliefs. The latter often find interpretation to be difficult by “the present” or within contemporary art trends – because they are by nature beyond trends.
Yin ZhaoYang’s landscape series, created around 2019, is often regarded for its connection with Yuan and Ming Dynasty landscapes, emphasizing a strong groundbreaking style. In 2020, a year inundated with trends, this is even more praiseworthy. Suda Issei, a true pioneer of photography, was also undervalued. Suda transcended the meaning of things in an almost metaphorical and concealing way. His aesthetics were contrary to the direct, exposed, and “light in the dark” style prevalent through post-war Japanese photography, and showed his uniqueness and his importance in the medium. Kuwata Takuro’s “Untitled” is a work I kept when I held his exhibition in 2015. In the following years, he has been managed by several well-known galleries in Europe and America, and is one of the most famous contemporary Japanese sculptors in Europe and America.
I put Hell Gette’s “#🧟💕🧟(#AfterShowParty)”, Chang Ting Tong’s new work, Kuwata Takuro’s “Untitled” with Yin ZhaoYang and Suda Issei to reimagine the waves and trends of art. As figuration and identity laden themes of race and sexuality have become central points of focus in the world of recent Western art, how do Asian artists propose a purer, broader, and more intellectual understanding of the world under the interlocking of cultures, generations, and subjects?