I write this blog while in China. I'm overwhelmed, to say the least, by the changes here in Shanghai from the last time I visited. This is not the China of ancient times with Starbucks now on almost every corner. I feel right at home because of it.
So what kind of art scene do they have here? I can only say it's in the early stages similar to when Soho first became a major scene. There is a growing area of galleries in the warehouse section called Moganshan Lu. It's still a little raw with large and small concrete spaces that don't yet have the sophistication of the New York art scene, but I can see it's only a matter of time before this place evolves. I found some good work here.
The artist Wei Yi’s large oil paintings of rural laborers was inspiring. This series of paintings takes us into the homes and lives of how a large part of the population exists in China. In this collection of somber brownish paintings Wei Yi uses full scale images of laborers who are bachelors working to save enough money to marry...their hard existence shows on their weathered faces. The work has freshness while using a limited range of color.
Another artist who impressed me was Yang Zhenzhong. His large photographic installation of women sitting at a long table viewed from the knees down was placed in the gallery space in photographic sections, which were tilted in various directions and held in place by wires that reached floor to ceiling. The viewer can walk through the installation as if it were a photographic landscape, yet when seen through a peephole positioned in front of the sections of photos, the larger picture comes together as if one photograph. In order for this piece to work a mathematical precision was needed to create the right perspective.
There's still a degree of unspoiled vision in the best of the work in China from what I can see. While the country is going through transition, the artwork at its best is reflecting it. This kind of documentation records the country’s visual, emotional and intellectual history of a changing time, and again, this is what the artist does best.