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Posts Tagged ‘calligraphy’

The Message in the Meaningless

April 29, 2014 | by

Fig. 46_Zhang Huan_Family Tree

Zhang Huan, Family Tree, 2001, nine chromogenic prints. Photo: © Yale University Art Gallery.

Fig. 45_Song Dong_Printing on Water

Song Dong, Printing on Water (Performance in the Lhasa River, Tibet), 1996, thirty-six chromogenic prints. Photo: Eugenia Burnett Tinsley.

Fig. 39_Wu Shanzhuan_Character Image of Black Character Font_1989

Wu Shanzhuan, Character Image of Black Character Font, 1989, six unmounted sheets; ink and color on paper image. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Fig. 47_Liu Dan_Dictionary

Liu Dan, Dictionary, 1991, ink and watercolor on paper. Photo: courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Fig. 40_Gu Wenda_I Evaluate Characters (2)

Gu Wenda, Mythos of Lost Dynasties Series—I Evaluate Characters Written by Three Men and Three Women, 1985, hanging scroll; ink on paper. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Fig. 128_Cai Guo Qiang_Project for Extraterrestrials No. 10

Cai Guo-Qiang, Project to Extend the Great Wall of China by 10,000 Meters: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 10, 1990, accordion album of twenty-four leaves; ink and gunpowder burn marks on paper. Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fig. 113_Wang Dongling_Being Open and Empty

Wang Dongling, Being Open and Empty, 2005, hanging scroll; ink on paper. Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fig. 138_Ai Weiwei_Stool

Ai Weiwei, Stool, ca. 2007. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Fig. 144_Zhang Jianjun

Zhang Jianjun, Scholar Rock (The Mirage Garden), 2008, silicone rubber. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Late last year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art unveiled “Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China,” the institution’s first survey of contemporary art from the country. Situated within the museum’s Chinese art galleries, the exhibition interspersed the old with the new, adding context—or, perhaps, simply conserving space. In the permanent Ming Scholar’s retreat, an aubergine rubber scholar rock by Zhang Jianun cast a long shadow over its limestone brethren, while unusable furnishings by the artist-activist Ai Weiwei—a wobbly stool constructed like craniopagus twins, and a table folded at the middle so its four legs have become two legs and two arms—seemed poised to animate and wander away from their sixteenth-century predecessors. Resistance to tradition is a prominent theme in Ink Art, as is the importance of writing in—subtext, of course—a country with an active policy of censorship.

The exhibition looked at the evolution of China’s calligraphic traditions, but its most powerful statement came with works that play on an idea of language, rather than on actual words. Song Dong’s 1996 performance Printing on Water (Performance in the Lhasa River, Tibet), in which the artist futilely stamped the water’s surface with a large wooden seal, alludes to the hopelessness the act of writing can evoke, particularly if it leaves no trace. The final two works in “Ink Art” are also concerned with meaningless writing—but they combined to create a more comforting message. Xu Bing’s installation Book from the Sky filled the last room with scrolls covered in block-printed Chinese characters. The text cascaded in soft arcs across the ceiling, wallpapering the room and coming to rest in neat piles on the floor. The careful organization evokes a calm—which is abruptly displaced when one learns that the text comprises four thousand nonsense characters. Most Western viewers wouldn’t be able to read the text anyway, but the realization that no one can is transformative. An expanse of gibberish becomes an inhabitable space of words: the viewer is absolved from the act of reading. Read More »

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Punio, Punire

November 6, 2013 | by

puniopunire600

The New York City Marathon has come again, awing, baffling, and intimidating the more sedentary among us with its pursuit of voluntary physical punishment. In a downtown studio a few months ago, another marathon of sorts took place. Ruth Irving was filmed for three hours by the artist Jan Baracz writing the passive present conjugation of the Latin verb “to punish” (punio, punire). I am punished, you are punished … The camera was positioned over Irving’s shoulder as she dipped her calligraphy pen in the inkwell, tracing the words over and over until the page was covered. They had agreed she would just keep writing, creating layers of script on script. Jan looked nervously on, asking her occasionally in his absurdly thick Polish accent if she was okay, which she found irritating after awhile. Her own forced awareness—she couldn’t look away or she would lose her place on the page—was exhausting enough. She had imagined that the difficulty would be at least partly physical—hand cramps or parched throat. But the worst part of it was that she couldn’t stop, sit back and look. As an illustrator, calligrapher, and former architecture student, that’s what she did instinctively, or compulsively. The surveying pause of the artist before the brush lands on the paper. But she was working blind. That was true punishment.

Last fall, Ruth met Jan at a potluck thanksgiving in Brooklyn. They had an immediate, inexplicable rapport in the way only true odd couples can. Five foot ten, pale with raven-black hair, Ruth is from Melbourne, Florida, the daughter of conservative Christians. One of five children, she was homeschooled, wore long skirts, and was not allowed to listen to “music with rhythms.” She describes the environment as “a radical, defy-the-man mixture of religion and hippy anarchism.” She was pulled out of first grade just as she was just learning cursive. “I only knew half the cursive alphabet. It was something I was kind of embarrassed about.” As a result, two years ago, at age twenty-nine, she decided to teach herself to script. “Being homeschooled and being separated, it’s easy to cherish and hold on to, but at the same time it’s really painful,” she says. “Reality is so different from that precious bubble. I wanted to work on communicating with people. Now I’m scripting like everyone who went to school.” She became so adept at it that she was able to find work writing invitations and addressing formal envelopes. Read More »

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Hemingway Hotels, Customized Austen, Literary Shame

April 20, 2012 | by

  • Listen to Allen Ginsberg reading “What Would You Do If You Lost It?” at the 92nd Street Y in 1973.
  • One can now purchase a customized classic—think Pride and Prejudice—featuring you as a character.
  • Incredibly lovely calligraphy, in action.
  • Ted Hughes’s ninety-two-year-old brother, Gerald, is writing a memoir about the boys’ Yorkshire childhood.
  • Shameful reading confessions.
  • The life of the pencil elitist.
  • The Roots, Chris Martin, Regina Spektor, and … Captain Ahab. People of the Book unite! (Adorably.)
  • Hemingway’s estate is starting a hotel chain. Hemingway Hotels and Resorts will be Papa-themed. Says the Web site, “An artist needs inspiration to flourish, and so Hemingway was drawn to the world’s most beautiful locales: Paris, Spain, Venice, Key West, Havana, Idaho. Hemingway Hotels will also be found there, and in other beautiful places around the world, in cities and in nature, on beaches and in mountains. Only select hotels will be approved for this iconic brand. For each Hemingway Hotel must be true to its environment, unique architecturally, and committed to providing guests with active, passionate one-of-a-kind experiences that deeply enrich their lives.”
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    Islamic Art at the Met

    November 7, 2011 | by

    Dagger with Zoomorphic Hilt, second half sixteenth century. India, Deccan, Bijapur, or Golconda. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2011 (2011.236). Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

    Last week, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its renovated and newly enlarged wing of Islamic art, now called Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia. The new space, which is gorgeous, is entirely redesigned. The galleries are now organized by theme and material as well as period. There is more figurative art—paintings, illuminated manuscripts, glazed pottery—and greater geographical breadth. Many of the pieces displayed in the old galleries are also here, newly contextualized. Others, never displayed, have been taken out of the museum’s twelve-thousand-object collection. And some pieces were acquired over the past eight years, while the wing was closed to the public. Among the most seductive of these new objects is a zoomorphic dagger (pictured above) from sixteenth-century Deccan India. I recently took a tour of the galleries with curator Navina Haidar, who talked to me about some of its treasures, new and old. Read More »

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