Monday, April 7, 2008

Cao Fei at Le Plateau

An exhibition of work by Cao Fei is on view at Frac Ile-de-France Le Plateau in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. Cao Fei, a thirty-year old artist from China, has been working and exhibiting steadily over the last 5-10 years.

This exhibition brings together about ten videos and a series of photographs dating back to about 2001. Cao Fei’s strength is her ability to portray the contrasts and disparities between the old and new worlds throughout China. She does not do this in any didactic, formal way, rather she takes an approach that brings a fresher, looser reading yet with no less of an impact. The clearest example of this might be with her series of work that involved her own father, a renowned sculptor of traditional statues. Here she presents several of his sculptures, typically commissions in various places in China, including a solider with his hand raised high, mother and child, peasants. At first you are completely thrown by where these sculptures are coming from but then the videos of the artist with her father convey the context. One scenario takes place during the Basel Art Fair where her gallery’s installation was in fact her father making his own work. This was of course totally out of context in Basel, and as such, was a pretty genius idea. Other videos from this work show their daily interactions in Basel, revealing a sense of father-daughter dynamic as well as the competitive, forceful personalities of two successful artists.

Other work on view includes her latest investigations of the online community Second Life where she has recently been selling real estate and at Le Plateau viewers are given an opportunity to explore this world. Other works include young Chinese rapping onstage as part of a staged spectacle and in front of a live audience, and a video showing young Chinese in costumes of their favorite manga or cartoon superhero character, acting out fights, walking through the city apparently unnoticed, holding a scythe, and at other times sitting at home next to their father who reads the paper or eats soup. It is an odd, almost surreal juxtaposition of images that works quite well.
Cao Fei is on view at Le Plateau through May 25th.

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