Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reason sleeps

Saw a fascinating and disturbing exhibit last week at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Entitled "Half-Life of a Dream: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Logan Collection," it included sculptures and paintings depicting, from the view of Chinese artists, life in China today. It's worth a look should the exhibit arrive at a museum near you.
The message in these works was bleak, a world of forced conformity and false authority.
Hard to have a favorite among such sad images. Still, one piece struck me for its dark-humor approach to a gray life. It's The Sleep of Reason, a sculpture that likely borrows its name from El Sueño de la Razón Produce Monstruos/The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, the 18th Century etching above right, by Francisco Goya. (The inspiration's reproduced here because of copyright restrictions on the work under review.) From a distance, the 2005 work by Beijing sculpture professor Sui Jianguo (below left) resembles a colorful behemoth of a mountain, surrounded by a color-wheel of swirling landscape. Close up, one sees that the mountain is the late Communist leader Mao Zedong, who's snoozing under a warm blanket while phalanxes of brightly hued admirers stand guard. The admirers? Monsters of a sort that's filled with meaning, toy-store purchases all -- plastic dinosaurs.

No comments: