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Sue Bush
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MoCA to Host Huang yong ping Retrospective

12:00AM / Monday, February 06, 2006

North Adams - A 140-foot wooden python snakes across a gallery over visitors' heads. A 20-ton sand model of a bank building seems ready to crumble in the next gallery while a live tarantula sits in a suspended lampshade casting her shadow on the table below and surrounding walls.

Welcome to the alluring and complex vision of Chinese-born, Paris-based artist Huang yong ping, an artist who challenges the Eurocentric world view, navigating the divide between East and West, tradition and the avant-garde.

His first retrospective will be installed at MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) - the only East coast venue for the exhibition -- from March 18, 2006 through February 19, 2007. House of Oracles features more than 40 works dating from 1985 to the present including Bat Project IV, a full-size re-creation of a section of the U.S. surveillance plane that set off an international controversy in 2001 when it collided with a Chinese fighter jet.

Huang yong ping conceived of the exhibition as a "total work of art," a singular, immersive sculptural environment that is a hybrid of diorama, excavation, menagerie, and exploratorium. House of Oracles is a metaphorical -and sometimes literal - journey through the "belly of the beast" challenging accepted notions of what art is and what it does and systems of thought both past and present.

"Huang yong ping is one of the artists whose work we've returned to several times in the past six years," said MASS MoCA director Joseph Thompson. "We admire him so much in fact that with House of Oracles, he becomes the only artist to have participated in three different exhibitions at MASS MoCA. It is an honor and a privilege to be the only East coast venue for this stunning retrospective of his groundbreaking work and we're delighted to present the work in the context of a series of exhibition of new work from China which began with Cai Gou-Qiang's Inopportune."

Huang yong ping's provocative installations challenge the viewer to reconsider everything from traditional expectations of art to national identity to recent history and politics. Once the leading figure of the mid-1980s Xiamen Dada movement - a collective of artists who challenged the art establishment using strategies associated with Taoism and Chan Buddhism inducing an embrace of doubt and chance - Huang yong ping continues to confront established definitions of history and aesthetics. His sculptures and installations - drawing on the Western legacies of Joseph Beuys, Arte Povera, Leonardo DaVinci and John Cage, among others, as well as traditional Chinese art, philosophy, mythology, and medicine - routinely juxtapose traditional objects and symbols with references to current events.

Works in the exhibition include 11 June 2002 - The Nightmare of George V, a monumental sculpture of an elephant mounted by a snarling tiger, a commentary on hunting safaris as a metaphor for colonialism; Bank of Sand, Sand of Bank, a Beaux Arts-style bank building from 1920s Shanghai, molded from 40,000 pounds of sand and concrete which seems to hover at the edge of disintegration reminding the viewer of the ephemeral nature of human production; The House of Oracles, a 40' square tent with a rich variety of divining instruments many relating to the I Ching making the connection between an artist's studio and a military camp; and The Wise Man Learns from the Spider How to Spin a Web, a work comprised of a lampshade/spider cage and a table with a copy of Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, a book that was Huang yong ping's first introduction to Duchamp in China - with no knowledge of French at the time Huang gleaned what he could from the text but meanings were masked just as the spider's shadow masks the book's text in the installation.

An important presence in the global art world since he participated in the groundbreaking 1989 exhibition Magiciens de la terre (Magicians of the Earth) at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Huang yong ping has participated in exhibitions at MASS MoCA twice since 1999 -- his work The Pharmacy was part of Unnatural Science in 2000, and Dragon Boat was commissioned in 2003 as part of Yankee Remix. He has shown his work in major contemporary art venues and at prestigious festivals in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. He was invited to the 2004 São Paulo Biennale, the 2003 Venice Biennale, the 2001 Yokohama Triennale, the 2000 Shanghai Biennial, and the 1997 Gwangju and Johannes Biennales.

He has been included in group exhibitions at, among many others, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, P.S. 1, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. He was a finalist in the biennial Hugo Boss Prize, held at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1998 and he represented France (with Jean-Pierre Bertrand) at the 1999 Venice Biennale.
"House of Oracles: A Huang Yong Ping Retrospective" is accompanied by a 250-page fully illustrated catalogue -- the first to address the full range of Huang yong ping's artistic accomplishments - including an anthology of the artist's writings translated for the first time into English. The catalog is available through Hardware: The MASS MoCA Store for $50.

Concurrent with the Huang yong ping retrospective at MASS MoCA, neighboring Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) in Williamstown, Mass. will exhibit Regeneration: Contemporary Chinese Art from China and the U.S.

This exhibition surveys the exciting and rapidly changing field of contemporary Chinese art in drawing, installation, painting, photography, video, prints and sculpture. The exhibition features the work of 26 artists, living in the U.S. and in China. Some have been prominent on the international scene during the last decade; others are new to Western audiences. Many of the artists share thematic concerns in their use and appropriation of traditional Chinese art forms in new ways or their investigation of the momentous, ongoing social and cultural transformations in China.

All the artists represent the vital and rapid regeneration of contemporary life and culture in contemporary China. Regeneration can be viewed at WCMA through May 14, 2006.

"House of Oracles: A Huang Yong Ping Retrospective" was organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and made possible by generous support from Altria Group, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, étant donnés: The French-American Fund for Contemporary Art, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Major support for MASS MoCA's series on contemporary Chinese artists has been provided by the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation.

MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings.

Through June 30, 2006, MASS MoCA's galleries are open from 11 - 5, closed Tuesdays. In July and August the galleries are open from 10-6 every day. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students with ID, $4 for children 6 -16 and free for children 5 and under.

Members are admitted free at all times. More information on MASS MoCA and the exhibition is available at www.massmoca.org or by calling 413-662-2111.

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