This weekend my friend and I had the pleasure of visiting the San Jose Museum of Art, and immersing ourselves in several new exhibitions. We traveled from Eric Fischl’s living room scenes to those that make up the over-the-top tabloid stories of Chinese newspapers. This experience at the museum accomplished several things.
1. A journey through an artist’s aesthetics process: The first exhibit that we experienced was Eric Fischels “Dive Deep”. The exhibit was a combination of sketches, paintings, photographs, statues and videos of the artistic discussing his working process. The focus of the first part of Fischel’s exhibit was inspired by beach scenes from St. Tropez and the Greek isles, as well as a couple of scenes of daily life. The first room showcased Fischel’s sketches on transparent sheets of paper that were layered and juxtaposed to form the perfect composition. The next part of the exhibit was based on photographs taken by Fischel on the beaches of St. Tropez in the 1980’s; In particular “the sphinx” woman who was photographed, painted, sculpted and sketched reclining on the sandy beach and later, in the same pose, incorporated into other scenes of daily life. Fischel was obviously fascinated with the woman’s pose, as she was featured in at least a dozen works.
The next section of Fischel’s work was a series of photo-collages. Fischel created multiple collages by combining parts of different photos, frequently using images of people in the same pose across multiple collages. The effect was engaging; challenging the observer to guess which pictures were pasted and which were part of the original photo… an endless task.
Another one of Fischel’s works was a collection of photos taken by him of two actors, who were hired to portray scenes of daily life. These featured a man and a woman engaging in daily activities such as showering, eating and being naked together.
2. A look at exotic cultures: My favorite exhibit was titled “Rising Dragon”, which featured a collection of photographs by China’s current artists. One of the most pleasant things about Chinese culture is the perfectly inserted farce into the most normal day to day scenes. This was accomplished with great comedy and flare by the talented Liyu + Liubo who photographed half a dozen scenes depicting some of the real stories printed in some of China’s tabloid papers. My favorite photograph pictured a conservative looking Chinese girl sitting in front of a bed in flames; the tabloid that inspired the picture told a story of a girl who stole money from her friends family several times, but on her last attempt found nothing to be stolen, so she did what any good Chinese girl would do and set the bedroom on fire.
The sarcasm continued in some of Zhou Hou’s works from the 2005 collection entitled “Unbearable Heaviness of Industry’. My personal favorite pictured a young Chinese school girl standing next to a sky scrapper, and sporting a shirt that read, in happy colored bright letters, “everything is shit”. The burdens of industrialization have been felt around the world, but arguably China has encountered these on an unprecedented scale. For example, the building of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River displaced about one million people. Other industrial endeavors have similarly contributed to the unease in China’s physical structure. The artist’s ability to communicate their experience of modern China to people here in the Bay Area and around the world, sheds light on the issues the country is facing, and is a necessary step in solving these problems.
3. My visit to the museum allowed me to understand my culture a little better, through the contrasts in vision shown by multiple perspectives. It’s important to allow oneself to look at things from different perspectives, and that’s what good art facilitates.