Face East

An exhibit of Chinese art at Robischon Gallery is here and Mao.

The colors the brothers use are as toned-up, garish and loud as possible, which is the same approach that Feng Zhengjie takes in his "Chinese Portrait" series of paintings, three of which are included in Face East. The people in them resemble animated images, or maybe caricatures on billboards, in which the faces have been reduced to outlines of simple shapes with minimal detailing.

The final part of the show is in the small space behind the Fengs. Among the artists Robischon and Doran discovered while they were in China was He Jian. Walking a row of studios, the pair peeked into He's and liked what they saw. His three works on paper here depict the everyday life of Chinese youth and have a retro-1920s mood to them. In the most impressive of the lot, "At the Foot of the Great Wall," two men and a woman are playing cards, smoking cigarettes and drinking beers at an outdoor cafe near the Great Wall. It's charming but edgy-looking, as are his other pieces.

Adjacent to the Hes is a DVD by Song Dong called "Eating Landscape." Using a stationary video camera, Song set up a mountain scene in the style of a scroll painting. But he has used fish parts, notably fish heads, to suggest the topography, and bits of herbs for the trees. Off-screen, people armed with chopsticks remove the herbs and fish pieces, some of which have been carved up by a man with a knife. It's captivating, if a little gross.

Also in this last part of the show are two sculptures by Jiao Xingtao that take Christo's idea of wrapping things in a different direction. For "Green Bust," a painted bronze, and "Golden Gate," in painted fiberglass, Jiao takes the basic form of a man's head in the former and a work of architecture in the latter, and covers them in dead-on imitations of gum wrappers. Formally and conceptually, they're extremely cool and aloof. I wonder if the original study models were made from actual chewed gum encased in their actual wrappers? We'll never know.

I loved this show — and its 2006 prequel — but I've got to confess a certain queasiness about Chinese things. China, one of the world's most polluted places, is an industrial police state better known in the popular imagination here for its lead-painted toys than for its painted fiberglass sculptures. On the other hand, for thousands of years China has been an art powerhouse, and regardless of how oppressive its rulers have been, artists there have risen above their circumstances and gone all the way to the top.

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