Connecting The Dots Through Art

Chinese Art, Two Museums

Precipitous Parturition (1999), by artist Chen ZhenAt the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

I was in New York for a day trip this past weekend to check out the Fuji GFX medium format camera. I’ve been obsessed with this camera for weeks, so I wanted to see how it actually felt in my hands. It fit perfectly. I think a GFX is in my near future.

Once I was done at B&H Photo, I took a side trip to the Guggenheim Museum. They currently have an exhibition entitled, Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.

I’ve been curious about the Chinese art scene after exhibiting my artwork there as part of the Shenzhen International Photography Festival in 2014 . I’ve also been fascinated about the way Chinese painters approached perspective in the past — something that renowned painter David Hockney talked about in this YouTube video:


Incidentally, I was in China in October for a vacation in Tibet. I always try to go to an art museum everywhere I go, so on that trip, I went to the Chengdu Art Museum.

Chengdu Art Museum

As I was walking through the Guggenheim exhibition, I couldn’t help but contrast the art to the ones I saw at the Chengdu a month before.

The art in Chengdu was more traditional, with the panel paintings like this one.

and the landscape work like this.

I was especially fascinated by this painting:

See that angle used in the painting above? It’s not like a tripod view at all, but an omnipresent view (which you can also see in the painting that Hockney discusses in the video above).

I love that omnipresent perspective. I love this idea of looking down at a scene from on high. I used that perspective in this piece for example.

The Warning, 2015 Collaged & Toned Cyanotype Print. 11.3” x 17”. Limited edition of 12 (Variable). © Jonah Calinawan

The Guggenheim Chinese exhibition was different. It was modern and non-​traditional. The giant dragon in the rotunda of the Guggenheim by artist Chen Zhen was amazing (see picture at the start of this article). It’s a dragon made out of bicycle tires. According to the audio guide, Chen Zhen is commenting on how China is transforming from cities of bicycles to cities of cars. Is that good or bad? It makes you think.

That’s another thing about the Guggenheim exhibition. It felt more critical of Chinese progress in some form or another. It shows a China that reflects on what it is becoming.

The Guggenheim exhibition was avant-​grade. There were more mediums. This piece that combined video and an actual physical object was fascinating to watch. What was the artist trying to say?

Sewing MachinePart of the Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World, Exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, New York

If you’re in New York, it’s worth a visit to this exhibition — even just to see the dragon that looks like a person’s intestines (doesn’t it?). The show is on until January 7, 2018. And if you’re in New York, the first Friday of the month, it will be free!