Seizing the New World: Recent Paintings by Yang Jin Long
Crow Collection of Asian Art
Through April 18, 2010.
Stride hastily into the ground floor gallery of the Crow Collection of Asian Art and you may find yourself halting abruptly in utter awe. In this gallery hang huge canvases full of a frenzied mix of colorful and cotton eye-candy fun imagery. This is the work of Yang Jin Long. Slow your approach to take in Yang’s Untitled Series, a collection of contemporary Chinese works of art that is intensely enriched with a depth echoing the vibe of modern China.
In the span of thirty years since the death of Mao China, mega Chinese cities have become an almost physical assault of colors, lights and noise. This transformation leaves no doubt that the period of stagnation that was the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is long gone. In my mind, Yang’s work both reflects and pays homage to this explosion of vitality in his home country.
Contemporary Chinese art of the last few decades has mirrored the post-Maoist China’s period of nation-wide turmoil and economic disarray in diverse ways; depicting the conflicts between old and new, tradition and modernism as well as a never ending search for identity. Yang Jin Long’s oil on canvas works are a gorgeous bedlam of vivid colors, bright hues, symbolism, and just about everything that makes the mega cities of China so boisterous and vibrant.
Yang’s impeccable knowledge of art and techniques shines through in his Four Seasons Series on display in the Mezzanine of the Crow Collection. My favorite is Autumn, with its strong tension between traditional and modern Chinese symbolism. In this piece, Yang forgoes the irony and ambiguity of the other seasons as he balances a respect for antiquity and tradition. It is a fascinating mix of traditional and modern technique. His devotion to technique, demonstrated in a meticulously rendered Chimera, coupled with poetic expression is what I think of as the foundations of great Chinese art. I only wish it were displayed in a position where I could view it from a greater distance.
Admittedly, not every person will immediately warm to Yang Jin Long’s work. But, is not the purpose of all art to tempt a patron into spending a little time contemplating the point of view of the artist, so as to expand the patron’s perspective?
Amy Hofland, Director of the Crow Collection, remarks,” [Yang’s] composition is intense, but full of messages – Yang is a teacher on canvas.” Wouldn’t it be marvelous if the Crow Collection left out a few cushions, from the Tuesday evening meditation session, on which patrons could sit before one of Yang’s pieces to savor its depth of details? I took advantage of those meditation cushions on a 3rd visit and thoroughly enjoyed a different view of and message within Autumn. I saw the “tree” of round fans and fresh fruit, juxtaposed with abstract half-fan shaped wood wedges, as a quite captivating transition from ancient to modern China where the round fans signify union and happiness, the fresh fruit symbolize life and a new beginning and the abstract depictions of wood represent innovation and prosperity.
These works from Yang are a striking representation of Chinese contemporary art that invite the patron to contemplate the weight of China’s history and its present-day reformulation. I love to grant myself several visits to view an exhibition. However, this is the first time I actually sat on the floor and gave myself time to explore the rich details. Call it bright and chaotic, but do not call it formulaic or superficial. Yang paints what he feels, drawing from his diverse interests in “motifs and elements from ancient and modern art history, film, everyday life, music, literature and science.”
I challenge you to follow suit! Sit on the floor before your favorite work from Yang. Close your eyes and meditate on that one little gem of iconography that calls to you and think about what it means to you as well as what it might mean to Yang Jin Long. Come back and share your thoughts with us!