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Wrightwood 659 and the Smart Museum Exhibit Contemporary Chinese Art on a Monumental Scale

The Chicago institutions have collaborated to present The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, on view at both venues through May 3, 2020.

gu wenda, “united nations: american code” (2019), human and synthetic hair. Commissioned by the Smart Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, and Peabody Essex Museum, installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (photo © Museum Associates/LACMA)

The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China (物之魅力:当代中国“材质艺术”) presents 48  provocative artworks from 26 of today’s leading Chinese artists. Using everyday materials in unconventional ways and radically reimagining everyday objects, these artists have trained silkworms to spin over metal chains, created drawings with exploded fireworks, arranged cigarettes into the form of a tiger-skin rug, and even skillfully molded porcelain into what appears to be thin sheets of paper.

Open through May 3, The Allure of Matter showcases these and other material transformations, exploring how the trend emerged with a set of defiant young artists in China in the 1980s and flourished with younger generations through the 1990s and early 2000s. This exhibition describes this new phenomenon for the first time, challenging traditional views of contemporary Chinese art and demonstrating its connections to global trends.

The exhibition is on view in two locations in Chicago, occupying the entire gallery space of both the Smart Museum of Art on the city’s South Side and Wrightwood 659 on the North Side. To get the full experience, guests are encouraged to visit both locations.

Visit theallureofmatter.org for more information on The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China (物之魅力:当代中国“材质艺术”).

Xu Bing, “1st Class” (2011), 500,000 “1st Class” brand cigarettes, spray adhesive, and carpet, installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (photo © Museum Associates/LACMA)
Liu Jianhua, “Black Flame” (2017), 8,000 flame-shaped black porcelain pieces. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Pace Gallery, installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (photo © Museum Associates/LACMA)
Gu Dexin, “Untitled” (1989), melted and adjoined plastic, installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (photo © Museum Associates/LACMA)

The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China is co-organized by the Smart Museum of Art with Wrightwood 659 and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Peabody Essex Museum.

The exhibition is curated by Wu Hung, Smart Museum Adjunct Curator; Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History and Director of the Center for the Art of East Asia at the University of Chicago; with Orianna Cacchione, Smart Museum Curator of Global Contemporary Art. The Smart Museum’s presentation of The Allure of Matter is made possible by support from Alphawood Foundation Chicago. Support for the exhibition and its catalog has been provided by principal sponsors the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and by Lorna Ferguson and Terry Clark. Additional support has been provided by the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation and the Museum’s SmartPartners. The national tour of this exhibition is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Zhu Jinshi, “Wave of Materials” (2007), Xuan paper, cotton thread, bamboo, and stones, installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Gift of Zhu Jinshi and Pearl Lam Gallery in honor of Wu Hung, jointly acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Smart Museum of Art, the University of Chicago (photo © Museum Associates/LACMA)

The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China continues at Wrightwood 659 (659 W Wrightwood Ave, Chicago, IL 60614) and the Smart Museum of Art (5550 S Greenwood Ave, Chicago, IL 60637) through May 3. The exhibition is curated by Wu Hung, Smart Museum Adjunct Curator; Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History and Director of the Center for the Art of East Asia at the University of Chicago; with Orianna Cacchione, Smart Museum Curator of Global Contemporary Art.