(Liu Dao) or island6, a Shanghai-based international collective of “multimedia artists, performers, writers, curators and tech-geeks” personify the aspirations of contemporary China by skirting verboten political flashpoints and keeping their content short, sweet, flirtatious, erotic and electronic. Their new show at Tally Beck Contemporary in Manhattan’s Lower East Side uses LED lights against a mostly black background. They invoke French Concession influences endemic throughout old Shanghai. Sin City contains their signature 1930s “Boop-oop-a-Doop” Betty Boop aesthetics, personified by flickering displays of shimmying breasts, wind-blown skirts, strippers, pouty lip kisses, fervently touching toes and electronic scrawled lipstick-on-mirror confessions of tortured romantic entanglements. Shanghai, fondly referred to by the collective as the “Whore of the Orient,” doesn’t seem to promote many male figures except as occasional nefarious influences, a position they are proudly unapologetic about.
“Make My Skin Crawl” (2011) eludes to the plight of aristocratic Russian émigrés vis- á-vis James Ivory’s film “The White Countess,” where Countess Sofia Belinskya works as a taxi dancer in a Shanghai bar. The work shows an enticing blond woman in a green dress carrying a red Chinese umbrella. “Love Lane Affair” (2011) is a sultry depiction of longing, loneliness and lust with a LED girl lying on her stomach kicking her heels and arching her body like a cat in heat. Admitting outright that China is a ”largely patriarchal and chauvinistic” country, the collective brings the nostalgic longings of a spurred mistress into electronic musings on a found antique mirror in “The Sound of Leaves Departing From a Silent Tree” (2011).
The most culturally perplexing piece “Poley Moley” (2011), is based on the lure to pack as many people as possible into a funeral by incorporating a pole dance striptease as part of the condolences. This outrageous staging, which is based on a real trend, believes the more people who show up at a deceased’s necropolis bash, the better their afterlife will be. Since 2000 it has become a very successful business tactic, so yes its true, Shanghai is still a slut.
However, island6 is not resting on their electronic laurels, but are thinking through the inherent nature of their medium. “Blossom Fever on Avenue Joffre” (2011) shifts the focus to the desert Bedouins of Saudi Arabia by using sand with a resin coating as its canvas. Four rose-pink hands unfurl and disappear, and the piece leans towards sculptural installation with LEDs as the accent, not the focus. This approach towards a more muted use of electronica continues with “Smoking Red Shoes” (2011), a rice paper collage with paper cuttings.
Cutting into canvas, no matter what the medium and LED displays are not new here in the West. What is so soigné about island6 is their clever use of Shanghai’s colonial past to titillate, delight and sugar coat a nostalgic view that has seen, like the rejected mistress, better days as it morphs before our very eyes into the shinning pinnacle of the new Cathay.
Sin City at Tally Beck Contemporary (42 Rivington Street, Lower East Side, Mahattan) continue until March 11.
They Managed to Mess Up an Art Heist Movie
There must be a lesson in Vasilis Katsoupis’s film Inside about the vacuousness of the art market or the claustrophobia of exhibition spaces — I just don’t care.
Ten Painful Stories of the Dutch Colonial Slave Trade
The Rijksmuseum’s traveling show strives to remind us that we are all, in some way, a part of this chapter of human history, whose legacy continues today.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
Textured Histories at Shiprock Santa Fe
The Santa Fe gallery features Indigenous textiles and jewelry from the early 19th century to today.
Renaissance Portrait of “Ugly Duchess” Likely Depicts a Man
A curator at London’s National Gallery believes the subject of painter Quinten Massys’s painting “is most likely a he.”
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
Hokusai’s “Great Wave” Makes a Splash at Auction
An edition of the iconic woodblock print broke records when it sold for $2.8M this week.
MTV’s The Exhibit Is Back With an Inflatable Dolphin
Episode four, in which artists tackled themes of justice and injustice, was the most lifeless of the reality TV show so far.
Miniature Worlds: Joseph Cornell, Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama
Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Florida Principal Ousted Over “Pornographic” Michelangelo Sculpture
Parents complained that the famous sculpture was shown to their sixth graders.
Tickets to Sold-Out Vermeer Show Are Going for Hundreds
The online resale market for the Rijksmuseum’s smash exhibition is booming, with tickets selling on eBay for over $2K.
The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
Nine other repatriated works were seized from Met Trustee Shelby White, whose collection was subject to a criminal investigation.
This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?
Puerile rehash …
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