Chinese Pop Art in the familiar style of Chinese propaganda posters.
Ah Leon, Tofu Pallet, 2003 [ceramic]
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
TOFU: Beyond A Food Tradition
Chinese sculptor Ah Leon’s (b. China, 1953) artistic vision hovers between illusion and reality, between fine art and contemporary craft.
Created in a trompe l’oeil (“fool-the-eye”) style, Tofu Pallet is intended to deceive viewers into thinking it is made of wood and tofu (soybean curd) when it is actually made of finely carved pieces of stoneware and earthenware. A ceramicist trained in the tradition of Yixing wares, Ah Leon has adapted the convention of modeling works after natural objects such as bamboo and melons by incorporating an aesthetic derived from daily life and folk culture.
In traditional Asian food markets, tofu is freshly made and stored on wooden pallets; in emulating this method, Ah Leon lends his piece a local, everyday appeal. He has skillfully merged the “Western” technique of trompe l’oeil with subject matter that has meaning and resonance within his Chinese background, forming a unique way for art to be viewed across cultures and time.
Ai Weiwei (b.China, 1957) Sunflower Seeds: 500 kg sunflower seeds , each one made of porcelain.
This new work, “Sunflower Seeds,” is loaded with thoughts and associations. From a distance, it looks like a beach of gray shingle, or a Zen garden. If you wanted to be harsh you might compare it to a vast expense of grimy porridge spread across the vast floor of the Turbine Hall at The Tate Modern in London.
One is reminded here of the installations of the late Felix Gonzales-Torres, below: wrapped candy, 1991
So important was the symbolic [power of food that Chinese artisans made Ritual food containers (dui), during the Eastern Zhou dynasty (771–256 B.C.), ca. 4th century B.C ChinaBronze inlaid with composition of bone black and lacquer; Diam. 8 1/4 in. (21 c
The Early Models: Ethnographic Art
China:Ritual food container (dui), Eastern Zhou dynasty (771–256 B.C.), ca. 4th century B.C.
Bronze inlaid with composition of bone black and lacquer; Diam. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm)
Purchase, Bequest of Dorothy Graham Bennett, 2006 (2006.117a,b)
Below: Sunflower Seeds (close-up)
As its title suggests, it is not intended as any of these things. The work consists of 100 million little monochrome porcelain replicas of sunflower seed husks. This humble item carries strong associations for Ai. The sunflower seed is a popular Chinese snack. During the Cultural Revolution of 1966- 76, Chairman Mao Zedong was represented as the Sun with the Chinese people as sunflowers turning their faces toward him.
Porcelain is named foor the Italian term for Cowrie shell, and in this country the term "china" refers to porcelain. Dishes made from this hard, glazed material are favored for food containers because they are easily sanitized.
In October 2010, Sunflower Seeds was installed at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall, the work consists of one hundred million porcelain "seeds," each individually hand-painted in the town of Jingdezhen by 1,600 Chinese artisans, and scattered over a large area of the exhibition hall. The artist was keen for visitors to walk across and roll in the work to experience and contemplate the essence of his comment on mass consumption, Chinese industry, famine and collective work. However, on 16 October, Tate Modern stopped people from walking on the exhibit due to health liability concerns over the porcelain dust [Wikipedia].
- Isaiah West Taber
- Chinese Butcher and Grocery Shop, Chinatown, San Francisco 1887