The Colors of Beijing: China Residency, Part 7

Today it rained. We woke up to the sound of the water gently swishing down the gutter outside the window and drip-dripping off of the roof.  When I stepped outside of the hotel to make my way to breakfast, it seemed Beijing was still half asleep, curled into itself like a contented house cat  The rain continued to drizzle down from the sky.

In the early afternoon we took the subway to the National Art Museum, grateful to have an indoor activity to do on a day such as this. We walked through an exhibit of delicate ink paintings done in a traditional style. Each showed incredible skill- deft handling of line combined with subtle washes of grey tones rendered both the sweep of great vistas and the tiny intricacies of a human face with precision. Most of the paintings were immense, and they filled the gallery with their presence, requesting respect and silence. Their fine grey gradations and the blurry edges where the wet ink had soaked into the rice paper put me in mind of the world I had woken up in that morning- a moist, monochromatic world, where all sounds were hushed by the steady drip of the water from the sky.

Yes, Beijing could be that way, I supposed. But it had surprised me when I had woken up this morning to find the vibrant city dampened and quiet. I had only spent a few days here, and yet I felt that I had a good grasp on the character of the place- colorful and bustling, filled with shouts and laughter, cooking smells, and countless rickshaws. The city of Beijing was a wrinkled, knowing smile on the face of China, reflecting its deep history and good nature. But today, a more reserved and stately Beijing was revealed. It was a new color to add to the palette I had been composing in my head, a palette of all the colors of this ancient city.

It had started in the Forbidden City, my mental palette, when I had noticed the specific yellow of all of the roof tiles. It was a mustardy yellow, verging on gold, and it stretched across the Forbidden City, crowning almost every building. My guide book had said that the yellow color had belonged to the emperor, and no one else had been allowed to decorate their buildings with it. I had thought about what power that must be, to own a color. As an artist, I must say I was a tad bit jealous.

The next day, on my way to breakfast, I stumbled across a store selling lucky cats. They came in different colors- red, pink, blue, green, yellow, and black. Each color meant something different, and although I couldn’t discern what they meant, I knew they were all auspicious. The round smiling faces of the cat figurines in so many different hues cheered me, and it was then that I truly started paying attention to the colors of the city.

The maroon curtains of the bicycle rickshaws matched almost exactly the rich maroon of the buildings at the opulent Lama Temple. Gold and bronze Buddha statues peered out from shop windows, and gold decorated the eaves of the concubine’s quarters in the Forbidden City. White marble gleamed on bridges where the railings were carved to look like clouds. The same color was more austere in a statue of the philosopher and religious leader Confucious.  Bright green and blue paintings of dragons adorned wooden gates. The sky was a paler shade of blue, the trees lining the streets a more lively green.

Also green was the bodies of two crickets in cages that I heard before I saw, in a small courtyard off of a narrow hutong alley. There were orange carp in a bowl, glinting in the sunlight, and a paler orange cat who shared tea with me in a quiet teahouse. There was a black bird in front of a convenience store, its leg shackled to a leather cord that was tied to its perch. The acid pink of plastic lotus flowers in a garland contrasted with the soft blush of fresh peaches that were being sold in the very same store.  Truly, this was a city made of color.

But the color that spoke the loudest here was red.  A bright red like oxygenated blood. In the form of giant red silk tassels it hung in nearly every shop front window. Red lanterns hung in the trees over a shopping street, marching in straight lines above the shoppers. The same red was on cartons of Double Happiness cigarettes, and in the fresh peppers siting in a bowl in front of a Sichuan restaurant, even on the Chinese flag itself that snapped in the breeze above Tiananmen Square. Red was the color of luck, and good fortune.

I struggled to remember that fact as Zoe and I huddled under her umbrella on the short trek back from the subway station after the art museum. We were talking about how much was riding on our next year at the Academy, how simultaneously excited and terrified we were. The red lanterns in front of a restaurant had turned dark and saggy in the rain, I noticed. I felt a little like that myself.

But then I remembered a piece of graffiti I had seen on my way to breakfast that morning. It had been written in English, black spray-paint on a grey concrete wall, and was just as colorful as the morning had promised it be- in other words, completely devoid of chroma. But I remembered the message. “KEEP ON PAINTING” it had said, with an underline for emphasis. “Ok then, I will.” I thought to myself.

Keep on painting. Its all any of us can really do. But in a world as colorful as this one, those words promise adventure.

On May 25, four Academy students arrived in China to start a two-month residency in Shanghai and Beijing. James AdelmanElliot PurseElizabeth Shupe and Zoe Sua-Kay (all members of the class of 2014) will share their experiences here throughout the summer.

Cospudener & The Bauhaus: Leipzig Residency, Part 5

By  Shangkai (Kevin) Yu (MFA 2014)

It is my feeling that it would be important to make a post that reflects our time here accurately. Beer drinking, sausage eating, lake swimming, grass and beach napping, museum visiting, and painting are our life in Leipzig.

Before going on to the museums and general art talk, here are two pictures that sum up our leisure time:
Tim sleeping on the grass at Cospudener Lake

View of the canal on our bike ride home from the lake.

In the past two weeks, the two most memorable things for me were the visits to Das Bauhaus in Dessau and the Museum der bildenden KünsteLeipzig.
I am going to dispense with the description of the Bauhaus architecture we saw in Dessau, and just have the following three photos sum up our visual experience there. 

Another view of the Bauhaus building.

One of the Masters’ Houses built for the instructors, which include Walter Gropius, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.

The highlight of the day at Bauhaus for me was not really the architecture that seemed all too familiar to us by now, but the original documents of the institution on display in the exhibition space. 

Among them was Walter Gropius’s “Lehrschema, 1922” (instructive schematic):

This is the original German version of the Lehrschema
Here is the English version of the schematic.

Having been to two different towns outside of Leipzig for art sightseeing, Tim and I finally, in the third quarter of our stay here, went to see our local Musem der bildenden Künste Leipzig

A sculpture by Neo Rauch in the Musem der bildenden Künste Leipzig.

The gem of the day at the museum for me had to be one of Werner Tübke’s paintings “Chilenisches Requiem.”

“Chilenisches Requiem” by Werner Tübke

The surface of the painting took me by surprise. Tübke chose to describe most things in this painting with the exact same technique. Viewing the painting at an arm’s length, this decision creates a strange effect, where the flesh transitions seamlessly into the garment, the pebbles into flesh, and the mountain range into the tree trunk. Everything in the painting seems be frozen.
A detail shot of the painting, taken by Tim Buckley

Both Tim and I had difficulties deciphering the technique Tübke used in this piece. The scintillating texture on the forms seems at once strangely familiar and foreign to me. By chance I spotted the texture of the orange rind in a Dutch still life painting, and found the likely source of this peculiar form description in Tübke’s painting. 

There are only eight days left till our final show here at LIA. We have decided to buckle down in our studios for the time being, and hopefully we would be able to channel some of the inspirations we got from seeing the many incredible paintings in the museums.

On May 31, four Academy students arrived in Leipzig, Germany, to start a two-month residency hosted by the Leipzig International Art Programme. Alicia Brown, Tim Buckley, Krista Smith and Shangkai (Kevin) Yu (all members of the class of 2014) will share their experiences here throughout the summer!

Satisfying the Inner Tourist: China Residency, Part 6

By Elliot Purse (MFA 2014)

After a long, post-opening, post-artist talk, post-John Jacobsmeyer hang out, post-spa weekend, all of us subconsciously decided some down time was due. Monday and Tuesday were spent mostly entertaining ourselves and taking care of all the little things we’d put off over our eventful weekend (i.e. laundry, shopping, and getting a little more time to take advantage of our great studio here at SHU). However, by the time Wednesday rolled around, we were totally rejuvenated and ready to embrace our inner tourists. So we jumped on the subway and headed into the city center. 

Contrary to the familiar grime of the New York MTA, the Shanghai subway was impeccably clean and made for an easy ride into the city. Once in the city, we headed over to the Bund area to take in the incredible skyline of Pudong and hitched a ride on the infamous “sight-seeing tunnel,” a light/laser side-show-esque tunnel under the Huangpu River.

When we exited the futuristic trolley that had taken us through the tunnel, we found ourselves right around the corner from the Oriental Pearl Tower. Staring up at the giant pink pearlescent orbs, we decided to go see Shanghai from above by making our way up to the viewing decks.

Somewhere around 265 meters above the ground, the view was stunning and uniquely unnerving due to the glass floor on the second observation deck. I noted that it actually felt similar to seeing the mountainranges on our earlier excursion. While the buildings certainly were not as mammoth as mountains, the sheer expanse of highrises receding into the distance was just as sublime.

We made are way down, grabbed some nearby food, and continued our journey over to the Old City. The Old City of Shanghai is the original urban development of the city center. I was told that some of the buildings are between four and 500 years old. Of course, like the rest of Shanghai, the incredible architecture of the past is now completely infused with modern shops, and it is a bustling maze of streets. 

After we had walked and seen as much as we could, bought some gifts while perusing a few markets and tended to some hard-earned blisters, Wang Yi met us for a quick dessert as his local favorite dessert cafe. Now, I’m not a huge sweets person, but when my plate of fudge hit the table, you can bet it didn’t take long for me become a sweets person. The night concluded with an evening walk through the French Concession, another district of Shanghai, and a few drinks at a jazz club: inner-tourist satisfied.

After de-installing our show, exploring the city a little more on foot, visiting the South Bund Soft Material Market (an incredibly cheap tailoring market), we also got a chance to have dinner with Yi, his grandparents, parents and extended family. The meal once again was an incredible spread of food, which we eagerly and thankfully devoured. 

After all this, the rest of the weekend was spent, most importantly in my eyes, with a few last nights with the incredible group of international friends who so warmly shaped our experience on campus and in the city. Much love to Roland, Wen, John, Sylvia, Ray, Marta, Kamal, Agata, Anna, Peter, Sara, Elke, Rory, Andy, Alec, Iona, Tania, Dasha, the Kate’s and Mateo (and this goes without saying of course: Wang Yi!).      

On May 25, four Academy students arrived in China to start a two-month residency in Shanghai and Beijing. James Adelman, Elliot Purse, Elizabeth Shupe and Zoe Sua-Kay (all members of the class of 2014) will share their experiences here throughout the summer.

Ancient Artifacts, Temple Ruins and 248 Stairs: Mexico City Residency, Part 2

By Garrett Cook (MFA 2014)

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks since my last update. Two weeks ago I misstepped and sprained my foot, rendering me unable to walk for a couple days. It’s certainly a little frightening suddenly finding yourself immobile in a foreign country where you barely speak the language! Thanks to Motrin, bandage wraps and ice, I was up walking again in a few short days. Plus, the down time afforded me some extra time to work on my paintings.

A quick bike ride down to Chapultepec Park last week revealed a vast cornucopia of museums and sites, most notably the world famous Anthropology Museum. I can honestly say this is one of the most impressive museums I’ve visited. Focusing primarily on Mesoamerican history, the museum's sheer size and number of artifacts is awe-inspiring. The layout is extremely well thought out, with exhibition halls dedicated to each major tribe and geographic area. The museum has everything from small trinkets to temple ruins--truly extraordinary.

The expansive courtyard of the museum

Across the main road that runs through the park is the Museum of Modern Art. It is a small museum, but the collection is formidable, and it is curated flawlessly.

work by Martha Pacheco

Seeing this work in person was a real treat.
Outside is a wonderful sculpture garden.

Inspired by my experience at the Anthropology Museum, I took the hour-long bus trip north of the city to Teotihuacan to visit the ancient city and temples. 

The Temple of the Sun
Treacherous steps
I was immediately blown away by the sheer size of the site. Constructed 2,400 years ago, the site was home to over 125,000! I know that there has been construction over the years to keep the site open for visitors, but it seems to have been preserved marvelously all this time. The main attractions here are the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon. The 248 steps to the top of the Temple of the Sun were treacherous at best, but the end result was totally worth it. Here I am at the top:

My diet has remained a steady rotation of tacos and tortas. While I will say I’m looking forward to a slice of New York City pizza in a couple of days, I’m going to miss the amazing street food here. It’s the best combination of delicious and cheap.   

This has truly been an incredible trip. Traveling alone is such a unique experience, and I’m grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to do so for an entire month. I truly hope I will be able to return to Mexico City in due time, as it is an incredibly stimulating city.

On May 31, Garrett Cook (MFA 2014) arrived in Mexico City for a one month residency made possible by Stephen Henderson and James LaForce. This is one of two posts written by Garrett about his experiences there.