Paris May 23 2016
The collection “A Choice of Chinese Works” showcases two new works:
– The complete cycle of Seven intellectuals in a bamboo forest by Yang Fudong (2003-2007),
from June 1
– Giant No. 3 by Zhang Huan (2008), from June 6
Currently dedicated to China, the display of the collection of the Fondation Louis Vuitton has been enriched by the inclusion two new works of the first rank.
The first, Giant no. 3, is a monumental sculpture by Zhang Huan, a key artist in the growing importance of China on the international scene.
The second work is the complete cycle of Yang Fudong’s Seven intellectuals in a bamboo forest. Coming to notice at the 2007 Venice Biennial, the five films comprising the piece are here screened simultaneously. Seldom presented in this manner, the configuration forms part of a display designed in consultation with the artist. Featuring works by twelve artists from the collection of the Fondation Louis Vuitton (Ai Weiwei, Huang Yong Ping, Zhang Huan, Yan Pei-Ming, Xu Zhen, Yang Fudong, Cao Fei, Zhang Xiaogang, Tao Hui, Zhou Tao, and Isaac Julien), the exhibition “A Choice of Chinese Works” continues until August 29, 2016.
Giant no. 3: a monumental sculpture by Zhang Huan
As with his large-scale incense paintings also on display at the Fondation, Zhang Huan’s sculpture Giant no. 3 presents the result of a transformation—in this case, animals congregating into the shape of a human, or a human seeking protection beneath layers of fur.
The metamorphosis of this immense maternity remains in abeyance, as does the identity of the giantess. A shaman dressed in animal pelts or a tramp draped in patched-up rags, she represents a being between two worlds. Her strangeness is reinforced by the figure on top of her. Perched in the crook of her neck, this is in fact a self-portrait of Zhang Huan and makes direct reference to one of his performances.
In Rome in 2005, the artist had sought to appropriate another colossus, the Marforio. Representing the god, Ocean, it is one of Rome’s “speaking statues,” to which the population of the city would address various appeals.
Imbued with Buddhist philosophy, Zhang Huan explores themes relating to the link between body and spirit and to the cycles of life. Since 1993, he has made a name with provocative performances that directly involve the body, continuing these actions during a period in New York from 1998 to 2005. His return to China marked a turning-point. Becoming a Buddhist, in 2006 he started collaborating with a hundred or so assistants to create paintings and sculptures out of the ash of incense swept up in temples, borrowing from both religious iconography and from China’s recent history.
Zhang Huan was born in 1965 in Anyang (China) and lives and works in Shanghai and New York
Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest, Parts I, II, III, IV, V (2003-2007): a groundbreaking film cycle by Yang Fudong.
The series Seven intellectuals in a bamboo forest by Yang Fudong forms a sequence of five films shot between 2003 and 2007. Screened here as an installation in agreement with the artist, the cycle depicts the aspirations and doubts of the artist and his peers.
The title of the work refers to a legend about seven sages, philosophers, poets, musicians, and writers in the 3rd century BCE, who retreated from the upheavals of the Warring States period so as to meditate and live in freedom. In films close in atmosphere to a daydream, Yang Fudong deals with the anxieties of a generation—his own—that has reached adulthood since the turn of the 21st century.
In the course of a saga lasting almost five hours, Yang Fudong reacts to the growth of Chinese megapolises, to the disasters caused by industrial cycles of boom and bust, to globalization. The answers he offers, however, remain implicit.
The cycle opens on the timeless landscape of the Yellow Mountain. There follows a romantic urban chamber piece, and then episodes of violence in the countryside long ago. The scenes set on the seashore in the fourth episode are particularly enthralling. The multiplicity of settings and registers in the final film include traipsing through ruined landscapes, young members of the jet set lazing around, and choreographed dances.
The artist’s locations and sets are though not the only form of exile besetting his characters. Adopting a stylistic timelessness in costume and set, and a “vintage” approach—in black and white, the film quotes as much from the silver screen of the 1930s as from the 1960s photography of Antonioni—Yang Fudong casts an oblique light on the issues of his time. The proximity of all five films in the same labyrinth plunges the viewer into a fragmented narrative symptomatic of the new forms of cinema invented by Yang Fudong from the early 2000s.
A major figure in Chinese contemporary art and auteur cinema, Yang Fudong draws his vocabulary from a broad-based culture that blends traditional Oriental landscape with film. Immersing the visitor in a nostalgic, dreamlike atmosphere, his timeless fictions voice the uncertainties and dilemmas of a generation split between modernity and tradition in a China gripped by ceaseless change.
Yang Fudong was born in 1917 in Beijing and now lives and works in Shanghai.