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Exhibit Review: LACMA's Material Art from China

The name doesn't lie. Each installation is unique in not only the design, but the material used.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art currently has awe-inspiring exhibits which range from Picasso's portraits to their famous Urban Lights structure to some fun pop art to the exhibit which will be reviewed today.

Shown on the second level of the Broad Contemporary building, the exhibit's full name is The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. The name doesn't lie. Each installation is unique in not only the design, but the material used.

There is not simply paint on paper in this exhibit. Instead, the works are large structures which consist of heavily manipulated materials. For each piece, the materials used were consciously chosen for specific reasons.

This can be seen with the two works by Ai Weiwei. The first is called Tables at Right Angles (1998) and the second is called Untitled, Divine Proportion (2006). Both structures were made using wood, specifically very old wood from antique furniture. For instance, the wood from Tables at Right Angles was taken from tables that were made during the Qing Dynasty.

Weiwei's works are both made out of wood but what makes it truly so complex is how the pieces were made. He did not use nails or glue, simply the wood itself. He did this in the woodworking style of the sixteenth century.

Another breathtaking piece in this exhibit is by Xu Bing. He created 1st Class (1999-2011), which is made to look like a tiger-skin rug, entirely out of cigarettes. This installation in particular is extremely large and takes up an entire room.

Bing wanted to tie the idea of a tiger-skin rug with the material of cigarettes because they have both been glamorized and at times can be seen as luxurious. What is particularly interesting about the installation is that it looks different from opposite sides of the room. While of course it still resembles a tiger, the colors are completely different so viewers can either see orange or brown, depending on their location.

Lin Tianmiao also invoked a starstruck response with Day-Dreamer (2000). Day-Dreamer is a self portrait made up of cotton thread sewn through a photograph of herself. The photograph is hung on the ceiling, completely parallel to the floor, which gives the impression that the thread which connects that and the floor mat is what makes the portrait.

The story behind Tianmiao's method is quite interesting. She grew up watching her mother unravel thread from gloves that she was given at work, and use the thread for sewing. Tianmiao incorporated the idea of white cotton thread into her artwork in the 1990s and continues to use the material still.

There are many more interesting installations in this exhibit, as well as throughout the entire museum. To those of you who enjoy art or roaming around a museum, I certainly recommend this exhibit.


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