Denver was one of Chinese art's first foreign outposts. Back in the '90s, Robischon became one of the first galleries in the United States to feature contemporary Chinese pieces, while MCA Denver presented one of the first exhibits of Chinese contemporary photography anywhere in the country. The curator of the latter show, Julie Segraves, is the longtime director of the Asian Art Coordinating Council, and she's one of the key reasons that there's so much local interest. Her latest triumph is Wang Gongxin: It's About Relating — It's About China, an over-the-top video solo at RedLine. The exhibit, though made up of just four pieces, fills RedLine to capacity.
The show begins with "My Sun," a three-channel projection starring an old peasant woman who is seen throughout as other images, such as fields or sky, come into the picture. Segraves points out that Wang's sensibilities come from his training as a painter and that there is a pictorial relationship to that medium, as well as to film.
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In the main space are the other three Wang pieces. First, on a pair of monitors, is "Always Welcome," a cartoonish sendup of classical guardian lion sculptures whose solemnity is undercut by Wang's having animated them.
Next, running across six walls, is "Forward." Each of the projections in this piece features a trio of people walking ahead, their backs turned toward us. As a result, the viewer can never catch up, Segraves points out, a poignant touch in light of the recent decline of the West vis-à-vis China.
The final work, "It's About Ya," is a masterpiece. The title references a character who appears at the opening of a Chinese opera, but the topic is the relentlessly fast pace of life in Beijing. In nine separate projections, not all of which can be seen at the same time, Wang intersperses images of Ya with those of ordinary people, tapping feet, swaying bamboo and other things that pulse in time to the hard-driving soundtrack, also done by Wang.
Wang Gongxin, at RedLine (2350 Arapahoe, 303-296-4448, www.redlineart.org), closes this Sunday, March 11. Attendance has been light, so all of you who haven't seen it should make a point to.