China is a country defined by transition. It still stands in the long shadow cast by Mao Zedong, former dictator from 1949 to 1976, but is moving rapidly into a new light.
China is a country defined by transition. It still stands in the long shadow cast by Mao Zedong, former dictator from 1949 to 1976, but is moving rapidly into a new light. In this ever-shifting cultural and economic landscape, a wide vista of vibrant, cutting-edge art has been revealed.
This month, and throughout the rest of the year, the Portland Art Museum is hosting China Design Now, an exhibit that features contributions from a dizzying array of modern Chinese visionaries.
Originally housed in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the show has now made its way to the West Coast. It represents work from three of China’s most populous coastal cities: Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai. The exhibit is divided up according to geographic location, and each locale reflects the salient themes of its design environment.
For example, Beijing is subtitled as the “Future City” and focuses on architecture and urban planning, while Shanghai, the “Dream City,” is concerned with fashion and lifestyle. In this way, visitors can get a sense for the distinctive character of each place and the design movements that have grown there.
One of the more intriguing aspects of the exhibit is its inclusion of a wide variety of media. In order to present a complete portrait of modern Chinese design, the work on display includes everything from clothing and CD covers to sculpture and skateboards. The result is an immersive and authentic environment that covers a lot of ground.
The Shanghai-based design firm Super Nature is one of the many art collectives represented at China Design Now. Among other things, Super Nature creates highly conceptual installation pieces that often emphasize interactivity and a reconnection with the natural world. Interestingly, this sentiment is typically expressed through state of the art computer technology. Their Rabbit Wonderland, for instance, consisted of a series of large, glowing LED sculptures erected in Shanghai. The sculptures featured a number of interactive elements, such as lights that would react to the sound of a human voice.
This spirit of synergy would seem to be infectious, as the presence of China Design Now in Portland has set off a series of congruent functions in the artistic community. Throughout October, advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy has been hosting some showings that serve as offshoots of the main exhibit.
The Goldsmith Gallery is offering up Jelly Generation, a show that displays the work of 30 young, up-and-coming Chinese artists. Among them is mixed-media artist Quail Egg, whose colorful designs include old newspaper print and Polaroids.
In viewing local artistry, the impact that China Design Now has had on Portland’s creative populace reveals just how influential and inspiring the exhibit is. Young designers from around the world will be looking to China as a guiding light.