Gallery Run: East Greets West
In a way, China is both the oldest and newest country in the world. Isolated for centuries, it has emerged in the last few decades as one of the most powerful players in the global economy.
In the art world, Beijing has become a major hot spot for both native and international artists. With exhibitions worldwide, Chinese artists are on the cutting edge of contemporary art, while Western artists flock to China to find inspiration.
When Rudyard Kipling wrote that "east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet," he probably didn’t have globalisation in mind.
Entering this exhibition, one is greeted with a soft "meow". "Cat Subway" is an animated work created from over 1000 watercolors on rice paper.
Cats dressed in suits in the subway stare forlornly out the window.
Beautiful tropical fish float dreamily through their collective consciousness.
The framed stills from the films are reminiscent of ancient Chinese scrolls.
Animation puts them in an entirely new light, revealing the banality of modern urban existence.
Lei Xue highlights the clash of east and west with both depth and lightness. Later the suited-up cats reappear, but life-size and three-dimensional, as stuffed animals sans noses and mouths.
These cats have been silenced – no "meows" here.
But a smile returns with the iconic Bugs Bunny adorning the face of a US dollar bill, hand-painted on a ceramic-tile base mounted in a wood panel.
Along with Donald Duck, the artist puts these beloved figures in unexpected roles such as George Washington and ancient Chinese kings.
Common Chinese art materials like rice paper and porcelain are used in unforeseen ways. High-heeled shoes and bird cages are formed out of delicate but menacing white porcelain lattice work that looks like barbed wire – an obvious allusion to foot binding that has never entirely disappeared. Another animated film of the disembodied shoes in a tango try to lighten the mood.
But in a dark corner, a pile of cast-off Coke cans in same barbed-wire porcelain remind us that globalisation is in fact no laughing matter. Through Oct. 5.
Galerie Hubert Winter
7., Breite Gasse 17
Tue.–Fri. 11:00 – 18:00, Sat. 11:00 – 14:00
(01) 524 0976
Chinese Fast Food
Austrian photographer Anja Hitzenberger spent some time in Beijing in 2011.
Visiting the Olympic Park, she was captivated and bewildered by the generic temporary fast food court – each stall contained a little culinary stage that could be conveniently captured within a photographic frame.
The backdrops were the brightly colored menus and logos dishes on offer, the subjects the oblivious employees, the props the strange and not necessarily appetising-looking items that were being peddled.
Although the treats were mostly "Chinese" in origin, their poor quality labeled them as fast food.
Normally known for high standards, Chinese cuisine is not immune to the effects of modern commerce. What’s interesting is the attempt to make the food approachable.
Translations are at times confusing, if not downright off-putting: What looks like a common dumpling is presented as "the burger", another mysterious item is described as "bags of meat", multi-coloured tripe somehow translates into "burst abdomen".
Hitzenberger’s images are saturated with the vibrant colours, variety, and liveliness of a rapidly modernising China. "My work is about people and the relationships of the body to architecture and space," she tells me. The employees represent the stark contrast of a stagnant job in a fast-paced economy. Many of them were clearly unaware of their photos being taken. Just another day flipping burgers (or is it dumplings?). Through Oct. 19.
Temporarily located at Photoatelier Setzer-Tschiedel
Thu.-Fri. 13:00-18:00, Sat. 11:00-14:00
"Isn’t painting a stage?" wonders award-winning Austrian artist Gerlind Zeilner.
Her work process normally consists of two phases: building a three-dimensional model out of cardboard, as a kind of "stage" where the elements come together.
In the next, she draws from this model to create her painting.
Her paintings are "portraits" and her latest, a beloved figure from "Journey to the West", a well-known Chinese folk tale, discovered after a stay in China in 2011.
A cross between a pig and a man, the character Zhu Bajie often appears in Chinese popular culture and film, Mangas, and video games.
This indeterminate creature, "Pigsy", fits right in with the artist’s category-bending methods: Figurative portraits verging on the abstract that hover between two and three dimensions.
The irony is that this media-hopping creature has travelled halfway across the world to be captured in paint.
With her unorthodox practice of building 3D models as a basis for her paintings, Zeilner has an obvious interest in architecture. "I see the diversity of spaces as a metaphor for the situations in which people find themselves." Through Oct. 25.
Thomas K. Lang Gallery
at Webster University
22., Berchtoldgasse 1
Mon.-Fri. 10:00 – 18:00
(01) 269 92 93 16