Past Exhibitions: Perspectives
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The Perspectives series exhibits work by leading contemporary artists from Asia and the Asian diaspora. Established in 2003, the series was among the first in the United States to display contemporary Asian art on a regular basis. Many of the exhibitions have featured large-scale installations, including site-specific commissions of seminal works by such artists as Cai Guo-Qiang and Rina Banerjee. Presented in the pavilion of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Perspectives exhibitions and related programs often invite visitors to consider connections across time and cultures, before entering the museum's galleries.
Perspectives: Ai Weiwei
This exhibition features prolific Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s monumental installation Fragments (2005). Noting the abundance of antique wood on the market, Ai had a number of pieces transported from Guangdong to his studio in Beijing to create a series of objects and installations. Fragments is a culmination of that body of work. Working with a team of skilled carpenters, Ai turned pillars and beams of ironwood (tieli) salvaged from several dismantled Qing dynasty temples into a large-scale, seemingly chaotic work, which he calls an “irrational structure.” Yet examined more closely, one discovers that the installation is an elaborate system of masterful joinery and delicate balance relations. Seen from above, the entire complex is anchored by poles marking out the borders of a map of China. Through his simultaneously destructive and creative process, Ai highlights the bewildering reality that we live in the midst of a world undergoing rapid spatial and social transformations. Perspectives: Ai Weiwei is presented concurrently with Ai Weiwei: According to What? at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Perspectives: Minouk Lim
The Rivers Restoration Project, one of the largest construction projects in South Korea’s history, has elicited considerable debate. In response, Seoul-based artist Minouk Lim staged a performance as the basis of her video The Weight of Hands. Capturing this silent ritual with a thermal imaging camera, Lim questions the effects of dramatic environmental change on the individual’s sense of place and self.
Perspectives: Hale Tenger
Multimedia artist Hale Tenger (born 1960, Izmir, Turkey) creates videos and installations that examine the tangible and intangible traces of events. From 2005 to 2007, Tenger filmed the façade of the St. George Hotel in Beirut—the site of the assassination of Rafik Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon—while it was being renovated. Gently flapping curtains, shifting light, and Serdar Ateser’s simple musical composition evoke a historical moment with profound repercussions that still haunt this physical space.
Perspectives: Lu Chunsheng
The 2011 Perspectives series focused on single-projection videos, beginning with History of Chemistry I by Lu Chunsheng (born 1968, Changchun, China), a renowned photographer and video artist now living in Shanghai. A mesmerizing experience of a vaguely familiar but remote world, History of Chemistry I follows a group of men as they wander from somewhere beyond the edge of the sea through a vast landscape to an abandoned steel factory. Using long shots and remote settings, Lu enigmatically refers to a distant history while conveying the sense of dislocation wrought by modernization.
Perspectives: Hai Bo
The speed and scale of change in contemporary China has been registered by a number of artists exploring the country’s cities and industrial remnants. In stark contrast, Hai Bo (born 1962, Changchun, China) looks to the desolate plains of northeastern China. Trained as a painter, Hai Bo took up photography in the 1980s as he became captivated by the camera’s ability to stop time and evoke memories. He returned to his hometown in Jilin province to capture the people and places of his youth, creating deeply moving portraits of resilience amidst the growing isolation of rural China. Featuring five stunning, large-scale photographs from his Northern Series, this exhibition offered moments to enter the vast panoramas of the artist’s childhood memories, observe the subtle changes of nature across seasons, and encounter the gentle transience of life.
Perspectives: Anish Kapoor
S-Curve (2006) by internationally renowned Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor consists of two sixteen-foot lengths of polished steel that are gently curved to create a continuous convex and concave wall. The work recalls the exploration of form that Kapoor most famously presented in Cloud Gate in Chicago’s Millennium Park. At a height of seven feet and with highly reflective surfaces, S-Curve engaged viewers in a powerful physical and visual experience within the Sackler Gallery. Known for his sublime approach to pure form, space, and materials since the early 1980s, Kapoor continued to examine spatial perception and the immateriality of the object through this work. [Link to pdf of HK/Asiatica article – 2009]
Perspectives: Y.Z. Kami
Born in Tehran, Y.Z. Kami draws from Eastern and Western aesthetic and mystical traditions to create large-scale works that explore the movement between the physical world and the inward spiritual journey. A student of philosophy, he developed a particular interest in the human face and its relationship to the divine, which has inspired several groups of portraits. This exhibition presented two monumental portraits from his series depicting individuals in meditation. Each subject, rendered with a soft focus and simple palette, emanates a sense of peace and introspection. In the third and largest work on view, poetry and religious architecture also give form to the divine. Using collage and verses from the Massnavi of Jalaluddin Rumi (1207–1273), the artist arranges words like bricks in a spiral of calligraphy that invokes the feeling of looking through a dome or the ecstatic movement of a ritual dance.
Perspectives: Simryn Gill
This was the first major exhibition in the United States of contemporary artist Simryn Gill (born 1959) and presented three works created between 1992 and 2006. Consisting of poetically transformed found objects, Gill’s works examine relationships among nature, culture, and knowledge. The works reveal a transnational perspective, evocatively referring to passages of material and literary cultures across borders.
Perspectives: Mei-ling Hom
Floating Mountains, Singing Clouds, a site-specific installation by Chinese-American artist Mei-ling Hom, consisted of 30 cloudlike forms and an original Chinese flute (xiao) composition by American composer Eli Marshall. The hexnet (chicken wire) clouds floated at staggered levels in the carefully lit but darkened space, creating an elusive landscape-in-space that translated traditional Chinese landscape paintings into the contemporary register of installation art.
Cai Guo-Qiang—Traveler: Reflection
Traveler by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang was a two-part exhibition at the Sackler and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Reflection, a site-specific installation at the Sackler, invited visitors to ponder the interactions between past and present cultures. The weathered hull of a fishing boat, excavated off the coast of Japan, was installed upon an “ocean” of porcelain fragments of deities from Dehua, China. Exhibited at the same time as China and Iraq, an exhibition that explored the transformative effect of imported luxury Chinese goods on ninth-century Iraqi ceramics, Reflection commented on cultural interaction. The Sackler installation was linked to the Hirshhorn, where Unlucky Year: Unrealized Projects from 2003–2004 presented a selection of Cai’s signature gunpowder drawings.
Perspectives: Do-Ho Suh
The fourth in Do-Ho Suh’s series of monumental staircases, Staircase-IV replicated in translucent red nylon fabric the staircase in the artist’s New York apartment in 1:1 scale, complete with architectural detail that created an uncanny sense of the real while transforming density into lightness and the concrete into the remembered. The flight of stairs rose high above the ground to an expansive plateau representing the apartment floor above. Staircase-IV invoked movement, impermanence, and the promise of transcendence along the passage from one level to another.
Perspectives: Yayoi Kusama
The Sackler Gallery inaugurated its program of contemporary installations in the pavilion with two works by the renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, recognized for her role in post-minimalist and feminist art. The focus on repetition in her work was highlighted with Dots Obsession (1999), an installation composed of six giant white balloons covered with red polka dots that proliferated over the walls of the pavilion. The balloons hovered playfully above Infinity Mirrored Room Love Forever (1996), a hexagonal, mirrored box with an opening into a kaleidoscopic vision of balls and light. By dissolving the pavilion’s surface into pattern, Kusama’s works drew the visitor into a seductive yet unsettling world.