Shanghai - The Bund is presenting "Art History", the group exhibition featuring Li Hongbo, Liu Bolin, Miaz Brothers, Erwin Olaf and Yang Yongliang, from September 24 to October 30, 2022. "Art History" invites us to discover the history of art from a modern and playful perspective through contemporary artworks that all have in common their inspiration from artistic movements of the past.
From the Lascaux caves to New York's MomA, through civilizations such as ancient Greece, the Zhou Dynasty, and the Renaissance, art has always been a constantly evolving language. Studying the roots and evolution of painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture, ceramics, calligraphy, and other practices from different cultures around the world and throughout history, helps us understand not only the evolution of visual expression but also that of cultures. By considering these ancestral artifacts, it becomes possible to learn from the historical context they come from.
To do so, Art History displays works by the Miaz Brothers, known worldwide for their unique technique that combines acrylic and aerosol paint to produce a blurred effect, a signature of the duo that serves to skip any immediate reaction on the part of the viewer by encouraging them to use mnemonic associations rather than their own visual information encoding. The Italian brothers invite the audience to discover their misty paintings, inspired by well-known masterpieces by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Vermeer, Raphael and many others, while presenting a radically new vision of portraiture.
The allusion to the Renaissance has also often been very present in the work of international photographer Erwin Olaf, who embodies through his photographs the aesthetics of Flemish paintings. The settings, postures and costumes of his models are directly inspired by the aesthetic rules invented by masters such as Jan Van Eyck and yet still very powerful and refined in our time. From the beginning of his artistic career, Olaf has been inspired not only by the works of other photographers, but also by painting, and his recent series "Im Wald" demonstrates this with references to the works of the romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich or the symbolist Arnold Böcklin.
The ability and ingenuity to combine an eternal classical school of painting with a contemporary approach has also been Yang Yongliang's talent to depict our cities by honoring the traditional Chinese style. Inspired by ancestral cultures and the Shan Shui, the artist practices digital photography in the manner of a painter. The overall vision of his work is reminiscent of a landscape, but a close examination will reveal an image composed of man-made forms and the representation of a resolutely urban context. Through his works, Yang Yongliang subtly suggests a possible reconciliation between tradition and modernity, nature and culture.
In addition to painting, sculpture has always been a major art form represented by masterpieces such as Michelangelo's David. Chinese artist Li Hongbo brings them back to the present and reproduces the feeling of solidity conveyed by stones such as classical marble with his paper sculptures that bend and stretch like accordions, infusing movement into his models. Li Hongbo has invented a new way of representing the body: from his first busts that were identical to the classical static models, he has created sculptures that are in perpetual motion and are full of life and emotion.
Known for his use of camouflage to blend into the landscape, Liu Bolin invites the viewers to discover iconic masterpieces of modern art from another angle, as illustrated by his work Dance, 2016 inspired by Henri Matisse's famous painting, La Danse. The Invisible Man reproduces this painting, made at the height of Fauvism and which left its mark on the art of the 20th century, in his own way through one of its photo-performances disappearing into it in order to put Man back at the heart of the picture.
Art History shows us that it is also by leaning onto the history of art that we can have a better comprehension of the world surrounding us today and thereby keep moving forward, one brushstroke at a time in order to hold on to a step once taken, but also that it is always possible to reconnect with the great art masters through the works of today's artists.