It is Cai's first solo exhibition in Philadelphia and the first in the United States since his retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in early 2008. Photo: EFE/Alfredo Aldai.
PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Fabric Workshop and Museum will present a multi-site exhibition of the work of Cai Guo-Qiang, one of the most prominent contemporary artists on the international art scene. Cai Guo-Qiang: Fallen Blossoms consists of a poetic meditation on the passing of time, memory, and memorializing. One of the artist’s signature “explosion events,” Fallen Blossoms: Explosion Project has been specifically commissioned for the exhibition and will take place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; a second explosion event will follow at the Fabric Workshop and Museum. Inspired by the memory of Anne d'Harnoncourt (1943-2008), late director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and her long friendship with the founder and artistic director of the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Marion Boulton Stroud, Cai Guo-Qiang: Fallen Blossoms addresses themes of memory, loss and renewal on a personal and public level. It is Cai's first solo exhibition in Philadelphia and the first in the United States since his retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in early 2008.
Cai Guo-Qiang: Fallen Blossoms includes four components, distributed between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Fabric Workshop and Museum. In addition to the explosion event on December 11, a series of four gunpowder drawings and a sculptural installation will be on view inside the Museum in a presentation titled Light Passage. Two newly commissioned works, Time Flies Like a Weaving Shuttle and Time Scroll, will be on display on the seventh and eighth floor of the Fabric Workshop and Museum.
“The concept for this collaborative exhibition actually began in a conversation between Anne d'Harnoncourt and Kippy Stroud several years ago, and it has now become, in part, a memorial to Anne,” said Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Museum. “We are grateful to Kippy Stroud for her commitment to realize the exhibition, both in appreciation of the Museum’s extraordinary late director and as a reflection on universal themes.”
“Anne d’Harnoncourt and I were friends for more than 40 years,” said Ms. Stroud. “Among the things we had in common were a shared commitment to public service in the arts, to Philadelphia, and to Pennsylvania. Before she died we both had in mind doing an exhibition devoted to Cai Guo-Qiang in collaboration with the Fabric Workshop and Museum. Afterward, in discussions with the artist I began to see that in his hands a larger meditation embracing the memory of Anne d’Harnoncourt might emerge, something that would find in the expression of the momentary something infinite.”
PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART (December 11, 2009 – March 21, 2010)
Fallen Blossoms: Explosion Project will occur in front of the Museum's East Façade, where the image of a blossoming flower will appear at sunset, suggesting the ephemeral beauty of a spring blossom as the sky darkens behind it. The December 11 event is open to the public, beginning with remarks at 4 p.m.
Inside the Museum, an exhibition of four gunpowder drawings will be on view in the Honickman Gallery 172. The drawings, which follow the cycle of the four seasons, were created by igniting patterns of gunpowder on paper, evoking and renewing the spirit and tradition of Chinese literati ink painting. In the same gallery will be 99 Golden Boats (2002), an installation consisting of leaf-shaped boats made of gold and suspended as if floating on an invisible river.
“It is a testimony to Cai Guo-Qiang’s sensibility and perceptiveness that this overall project is so particularly appropriate to its setting in Philadelphia, where history and reflection have always played such an important role in civic life,” said Carlos Basualdo, the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art. “It explores and represents its themes so precisely, in a manner that is at once public and intimate.”
FABRIC WORKSHOP AND MUSEUM (December 11, 2009 – March 1, 2010) Themes of friendship, the passage of time, and loss will be reflected at the Fabric Workshop and Museum through its presentations incorporating textiles, fibers, and other media. An audio recording of Stroud’s reminiscences of her friend Anne d'Harnoncourt, which the artist used to create the exhibition’s works, will be heard in the galleries where Cai Guo-Qiang’s work is on view.
The passage of time will be slowed on the second floor, where the explosion event realized at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will be shown in a high-definition video that will stretch the 10-second explosion event to several minutes.
Time Flies Like a Weaving Shuttle This newly commissioned work involves the participation of five weavers from the Tu Family clan of the Xiangxi region in Hunan province, China, who will take up residence in Philadelphia for three months, and will work daily in the galleries on a series of tapestries inspired by Stroud’s remembrances of Anne d’Harnoncourt. Over the course of the exhibition, the weavers will create five tapestries to illustrate the accumulation of memories and the endurance of friendship. Visitors are invited to watch the process as it takes place in the gallery.
Eighth Floor: Time Scroll
In this installation, an artificial river constructed of metal panels will flow through the length of the gallery. In a live public event at 6 p.m. on December 11, a 120-foot-long gunpowder drawing on silk will be ignited on site by Cai, and then submerged into the river, where the scorched imprints will be slowly washed away.
Cai Guo-Qiang was born in 1957 in Quanzhou City, Fujian Province, China. He initially began working with gunpowder to foster spontaneity and confront the suppression that he felt from the controlled artistic tradition and social climate in China at the time. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, which led to the development of his signature explosion events. His installation works draw upon feng shui, philosophy, Chinese medicine and history, employing a site-specific, interdisciplinary approach that cuts across diverse mediums including drawing, painting, video and performance art. Cai was awarded the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, the 7th Hiroshima Art Prize in 2007, and the 20th Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2009. He was Director of Visual and Special Effects for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. In 2008, he was the subject of a retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. He has lived in New York since 1995.