SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM
Tales of Our Time
November 4, 2016 – March 10, 2017
Chia-En Jao, Kan Xuan, Sun Xun, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu,
Tsang Kin-Wah, Yangjiang Group, and Zhou Tao
organized by Xiaoyu Weng, Curator of Chinese Art,
Hou Hanru, Consulting Curator,
The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative.
Kyung An, Assistant Curator, Asian Art
New York, 1071 Fifth Avenue
Tales of Our Time
The second exhibition of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative displays commissioned works by artists from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
The artists in this exhibition challenge the conventional understanding of place.
By portraying often-overlooked cultural and historical narratives, Chia-En Jao,
Kan Xuan, Sun Xun, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Tsang Kin-Wah, Yangjiang Group, and Zhou Tao explore concepts of geography and nation-state. Their artworks address specific locations, such as their hometowns, remote borderlands, or a group of uninhabited islands, as well as abstract ideas, such as territory, boundaries, or even utopia. China, too, is presented here, not only as a country but also as a notion that is open for questioning and reinvention.
The exhibition’s title riffs on Gushi xin bian (Old Tales Retold, 1936), the name of
a book by modern Chinese literary giant Lu Xun in which he recasts ancient legends
to critique society, reimagine history, and illuminate problems of his era.
The artists in Tales of Our Time similarly call attention to the dynamic relationship between storytelling and history writing. Official histories are, in their eyes, full of fabrications, and storytelling provides a means to reconstruct the past and demystify
the present. While some of the artists engage storytelling by creating characters
and plots, others imbue their forms with narrative content by adapting metaphor
and allegory. All of them, however, dispute the line between fiction and fact in
order to make and unmake boundaries—those dividing communities, regions,
nations, and continents, as well as those separating past and present, reality
and dreams, and rationality and absurdity.
Tales of Our Time is not a monolithic report on the state of contemporary art in
China, nor does it encapsulate any artistic trends or phenomena. Instead, it
highlights the unique aspects of each artist’s perspective. The artworks—all of
which are new commissions—are not just about China; they examine social and
political tensions experienced worldwide, exploring themes such as individual
and collective memory, migration and urbanization, cultural inclusion and
exclusion, and the contradiction of technological development. The tales told
in this exhibition consider our seemingly more connected, globalized world as one
that is still filled with fractured land, fragmented history, and upended traditions,
but, at the same time, they also propose ways to imagine culture differently.
The second exhibition of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative, Tales of Our Time is organized by Xiaoyu Weng, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Associate Curator of Chinese Art, and Hou Hanru, Consulting Curator, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative. Kyung An, Assistant Curator, Asian Art, provides curatorial support. All commissioned works will enter the Guggenheim’s collection.
Creating Connections: A Q&A with Guggenheim Curator Xiaoyu Weng
Kan Xuan, Millet Mounds, 2012. Multi-channel color video installation,
silent, continuous loop, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist © Kan Xuan
Sun Xun, Magician Party and Dead Crow, 2013. Ink, light, paint, paper, and
color three-dimensional animated film, 9 min., 43 sec., dimensions variable.
Installation view: Magician Party and Dead Crow, ShanghART Gallery, Beijing, January 30–May 8, 2013. Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery, Beijing © Sun Xun
Zhou Tao, Blue and Red, 2014. Color high-definition video projection, with sound, 16 min., 9 sec. Courtesy the artist and Han Nefkens Foundation © Zhou Tao