Saturday, June 18, 2016

Salvaged Discards Evoke Shanghai's Past World

It was a maze of salvaged windows and doors, mirrors, books, photographs and video projection.  Everywhere I turned there were new angles and crannies that made the installation by Hu Xiangcheng very much its own world, enclosed yet expansive.  One could wander through it more than once and see new things each time.

Born in 1950, based in Shanghai, Hu's work was a highlight for me of the Mega Cities Asia exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Both the Museum and that exhibit were highlights of our recent road trip, and our first visit to Boston.

Hu's installation was immersive, constructed from windows and doors salvaged from dismantled houses from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) eras.

 I love how he juxtaposes modern objects on to the ancient surfaces, certainly a reminder that children played in the homes these windows and doors were once part of.

 It says in the catalog that "Hu communicates a belief that underlies his work:  that material things need not only be meaningful by fulfilling material desires but can also have spiritual, emotional, and poetic power."  The objects he chooses have that power in part by evoking people whose presence is palpably felt.  

 This wall of pulp booklets was near the front entrance.  Viewers were invited to browse:

This lovely piece was on one of the few flat areas with its own wall, a more traditional treatment.  This says to me that the artist is as skilled in printmaking and collage as in installation.

 Enjoy rambling through it!

We don't need to know what the Chinese characters mean to appreciate how they are spelled out:

I later asked a friend who knows Mandarin about it.  She said "This is a very common Chinese character. 福 (pronounced: fú) means good fortune, a blessing, or happiness. It's used a lot when celebrating something like the Chinese New Year, and wedding, or when you just want to wish someone 'good fortune.' "

This was the exit (or alternative entrance), with its beautiful traditional panel.  The selfies were unavoidable, but I enjoy how the viewer can't help being placed within this ancient / modern installation!

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