Taiping Tianguo, A History of Possible Encounters
Para/Site Art Space Until Aug 12
In an attempt to make tangible the invisible threads among the artists Ai Weiwei, Frog King Kwok, Tehching Hsieh and the late Martin Wong, there is a hint of mystery and subtlety lying beneath the entire exhibition space of Para/Site’s latest exhibition. A careful selection of drawings, photographs, videos and archived materials serve as evidence, but are clues in suggesting and recreating the artists’ plausible encounters that once took place against the backdrop of New York City in the 1980s and 90s.
While each artist’s works are mostly placed within his own territory, there is an essential coherence in the effort to draw parallels between the artists’ pasts in their homelands and their subsequent moves to this foreign city. The symbolic struggles and experimentation in artistic practice explored by them during the period are also amply reflected upon. Most notable examples of this include the photographic documents from Kwok’s Free Tibet performance (curated by Ai), Hsieh’s ONE YEAR PERFORMANCE 1981-1982, and Ai’s Ai Weiwei: New York 1983-1993, a series of photographs taken by Ai in the East Village from 1983 till shortly before he left for China in 1993.
Other highlights from the exhibition are undoubtedly Portrait of Little Brian (1982), a drawing inside a book, and the digital print of First Letter Home from New York (Also I Joined The Museum of Modern Art) (1978), originally a letter sent to his parents by Martin Wong. The two works provide an intimate look into an alternative practice by Wong, who remained a key painting figure in the East Village before his death, in 1999,
in San Francisco.
Though it’s stated that the exhibition title is a metaphor to the crucial moment and space shared by these four artists in New York, numerous trajectories are raised between their works, situating the show at a realm much further beyond the transparent layers of temporality and locality it immediately displays.