Viewers say the works look like “giant, squid-like pods” or a fruit called “Buddha’s hand citron” (佛手柑), but the most accurate likeness is now showing at a movie theater near you: Huang Chih-yang’s (黃致陽) recent sculptures bear an uncanny resemblance to the Romulan mining ship Narada in the new Star Trek.
His first solo show in Taiwan since boldly moving to Beijing in 2006, Peripheral Vision: A Solo Exhibition by Huang Chih-yang (永遠的邊界 — 黃致陽個展), opened at Taipei’s IT Park Gallery (伊通公園) the day before Star Trek premiered and runs through June 6. Despite his somewhat Vulcanesque appearance, the comparison between the 45-year-old Taiwanese artist and the 43-year-old Star Trek franchise stops here.
Originally part of an installation called Auspicious Beast: Gilded Cocoons (2009) at Pekin Fine Arts gallery in Beijing that featured 15 works, dramatic lighting and LEDs, the 150kg centerpiece of the IT Park show looks out of place on its own.
Still, the two sculptures and five paintings exhibited give art fans here a chance to see firsthand the latest permutation of triangular organic shapes — pointed like a bullet at one end and bristly at the other — that have long been Huang’s trademark. The artist has employed them in works ranging from his well-known figural scroll paintings, on display at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) through Nov. 1, to phallic sculptures shown at the 1995 Venice Biennale’s Taiwan Pavilion.
Huang compares the forms to patterns found on the undersides of leaves and in microscopic views of bacteria, and critic Jason Chia-chi Wang (王嘉驥) has noted that the shape is based on the “texture stroke” (皴法) used in Chinese ink paintings to describe the surfaces of stones and rocky mountains. Huang studied ink painting at Taipei’s Chinese Culture University in the late 1980s.
While the combination of traditional technique and contemporary aesthetic isn’t innovative in its own right, Huang’s oeuvre presents a readable account of an artist’s experimentation with a form that obviously fascinates him. The paintings at IT Park are a fine example: They obviously reference 1950s abstract expressionism, but when viewed with Huang’s interest in organic patterns and the “texture stroke” in mind, they appear more exploratory than derivative.
Wang has said that Huang’s art carefully follows art market trends — most notably his shifting of emphasis from installation to ink painting in the 1990s. Huang’s move to China could be viewed in this light.
Taiwan seems to be losing one of its best contemporary artists to the much larger art market in China.
Huang’s small show at IT Park coincides with two giant exhibitions at TFAM — Taiwan’s foremost museum of modern and contemporary art. The most popular is a touring exhibition featuring second-rate examples of modernist European art, and the other is an excellent solo exhibition of one of China’s most famous contemporary artists. They draw crowds but beg the question: Could Taiwan do better to promote Taiwanese artists?
When asked about his move to China, Huang smiled and said: “I just wanted to travel and see what it feels like to be an outsider.”
He also mentioned his two warehouse-sized studios on the outskirts of Beijing and pulled a picture from his wallet showing his new horse.
It appears that Huang’s move was entirely logical.
WHAT: Peripheral Vision: A Solo Exhibition by Huang Chih-yang (永遠的邊界 — 黃致陽個展)
WHEN: Through June 6, Tuesdays to Saturdays from 1pm to 10pm
WHERE: IT Park Gallery (伊通公園), 2F-3F, 41 Yitong St, Taipei City (台北市伊通街41號2-3樓)
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