Under the Radar: Contemporary Chinese Art

The first wave of post-Mao contemporary Chinese artists settle in at Robischon.

More self-consciously Chinese are the sculptures by Chen Wenling, including "Happy Life #4," one of the Logan loans, that depicts a female pig up on its hind legs. In Chinese folklore, the pig is a symbol of happiness, hence the title. Though not for sale, the companion piglets are. Mother and babies are in fiberglass with a mirror finish of white enamel. Other works by Chen Wenling, from his "Happy Life" series, depict a centaur-like figure with the body of a pig and the torso of a businessman, and one of a man carrying a pig. Both were cast in bronze covered in a Chinese red enamel. They're stunningly beautiful and breathtakingly made.

I'd say that sculpture dominates this show, perhaps because of how strikingly cutting-edge and post-pop they look. That's also true for some -- though not most -- of the paintings, including Yan Lei's "Painting #14" and the other work loaned by the Logans. In Lei's vertically arranged triptych, he placed the serene face of a traditional Buddha in the top panel, a kitsch version of the same thing at the bottom, and a target in the middle. It's very good -- especially in the way it transfers American-style pop-art techniques and tastes to a Chinese subject.

A different take on pop aesthetics is seen in Shen Xiaotong's blown-up portraits. The four smaller ones feature busts and torsos, while the large one focuses only on the face -- but they all share the same taste for kitsch as the Lei triptych.

"Liu Hulan," by Yu Fan, cast and colored fiberglass.
"Liu Hulan," by Yu Fan, cast and colored fiberglass.

Details

Through December 30, Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298- 7788.

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A number of the painters in UNDER THE RADAR are working in some variation of neo-traditional representational painting, which is a direct outgrowth and critique of Western-derived socialist realism. This includes Liu Hong's painting of a seated woman with a fish swimming in front of her, and Chen Liangjie's three large black monochromes of groups of people in the distance.

There's only one abstract artist included, with abstraction being pretty rare in contemporary Chinese art. These are two acrylic paintings with neon by Zhang Dali. The artist has covered the canvas with smears and has hidden Chinese and English writing within the scribbles. On top, Dali mounted pink neon lines formed to look almost like profiles though not quite.

The 2006-2007 season is not yet at mid-point, but the exhibition offerings just about everywhere have already been filled with more visual riches than I can remember. So much so that I'd say it's unprecedented for the art world in the Mile High City. And it's no exaggeration to say that among the treasure trove of art shows in the area right now, Robischon's UNDER THE RADAR is clearly one of the best. Great Walls

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