August 21, 2013 - December 8, 2013
Although widely unknown in the United States, Yang Fudong (born in 1971 in Beijing, lives and works in Shanghai) is one of the most important figures in Chinese contemporary art and independent cinema. For his first midcareer survey, BAM/PFA presents twenty years of the films, multichannel videos, and photographs that reflect the ideals and anxieties of Yang's generation, a generation born during and after the Cultural Revolution that is struggling to find its place in the rapidly changing society of the new China. Yang has curated a special film series in conjunction with the exhibition that highlights his ongoing engagement with the aesthetics of film noir.
Yang’s films and film installations have an atemporal and dreamlike quality, marked by long and suspended sequences, dividing narratives, and multiple relationships and storylines. Many of his images recall the literati paintings of seventeenth-century China, made by artists and intellectuals who, faced with political suppression, pursued spiritual freedom by living in reclusion. Self-consciously evoking the literati, Yang calls his protagonists “intellectuals”; they are similarly confronted with the choice of participating in or abstaining from worldly affairs. In his series of photographs, for example, Yang brings the literati’s impassive attitude, emptied of any suggestion of agency or of the immediacy of experience, to the consumerist contexts of contemporary urban China: the fancy hotel room or restaurant, the swimming pool, the brothel. In other works Yang focuses instead on rural China, on the sense of isolation and loss as traditional villages are dissolved and communities scattered.
In his recent installations, Yang reflects on the process of filmmaking, creating spatially open-ended multichannel films that he calls a contemporary form of the Chinese hand scroll. These news works push further his theory that “anything which has been filmed can be shown.”
Also on view in the BAM/PFA galleries, Gazing into Nature: Early Chinese Painting places Yang’s work in the context of historical Chinese painting.
Yang Fudong: Estranged Paradise, Works 1993–2013 is organized by Adjunct Senior Curator Philippe Pirotte and presented by BAM/PFA and the Kunsthalle Zürich. The exhibition is made possible in part by Eric Li; ShanghART Gallery; Marian Goodman Gallery; the Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing; Dr. Rosalyn M. Laudati and Dr. James Pick; the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation; Rena Bransten; and Nion McEvoy.