Today we had the second installment of our art appreciation course with Ms. Greenspan. (Read my last post for more.) We focused on three galleries in the former French Concession all within a ten-minute walk from each other. Today we put much of what we learned last week into practice, namely to try to experience the work before finding out about it.
The challenge is twofold. First, we must overcome our conditioned habit of feeling like we need to read about works before or during our experience of them. Second, we need to avoid the curator's own perspective - be it his or her particular arrangement or having an actual conversation with him or her. At every gallery we visited today, eager curators or staff members were there to introduce us to the pieces. Our task was to avoid these people. Ms. Greenspan is deft at holding them off (it was all friendly, mind you) to let us come up with our own interpretations of the work before we were told about the artist or method.
A piece that I found particularly thought-provoking today was artist Li Qing's dual portraits of Marcel Duchamp and his moustachioed Mona Lisa. The artist painted both portraits and then pressed them together revealing two new portraits: a Duchamp with Mona Lisa features and a Mona Lisa with Duchamp features. At first glance, the pieces look simply to be four individual pieces. But after spending time with them, you can almost figure out what is going on - even if you don't quite put your finger on Li's method (none of us did, though we were close). Had I not been visiting the gallery under Ms. Greenspan's direction, I would have walked by these giving them a compulsory nod.
More on the galleries:
- Leo Xu Projects | Lane 49, Building 3, Fuxing Xi Road | 复兴西路49弄3号
- Art Labor | Building 4, 570 Yongjia Road | 永嘉路570号4号楼
- James Cohan Gallery | Yueyang Road Lane 170, Building 1, 1F | 岳阳路170弄1号楼1楼
Photos: top - gallery owner Leo Xu finally gets to say his piece; bottom - inside the James Cohan Gallery. © 2012 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.