The crowds slowly congregated outside one of Galerie Vallois’s three spaces along the prominent artistic ‘rue du seine’. It was a warm evening in early June; an unexpected yet hopeful sign that summer had finally arrived. The intimate street buzzed with a distinctly Parisian mix of café drinkers, after work commuters, and predictable tourists. The doors of Galerie Vallois stayed open, unassumingly welcoming the street’s diversity, including amongst many others, a mix of collectors, dealers, specialists, artists, and friends. All arrived to celebrate the Gao Brothers newest exhibition displayed at this contemporary space.
The artistic duo—fraternal brothers who have exhibited around the world—showed off their newest collection of communist influenced sculpture and photography. The majority of the works displayed represented the same theme: a super-sized, resin constructed Maoist head, shiny and smooth and exaggerating a prominent feature (in most cases a ‘cartooned’ nose). At least six of these sculptures, each painted in a solid bright color, appeared randomly dispersed along the narrow space. Each placed solidly upon a tall column, the mix of effervescent pink, green, blue, yellow, red, and silver Mao’s filled the gallery with a distinct, undeniable communist commentary. There was no subtlety about the satirical message of these sculptures; the Gao Brothers mocked Mao by imbuing a sense of childlike satire in these engrossed heads. Beyond the mere exaggeration of flamed colors, the combination of bubble noses, protruding eyes, and comic smiles seemed too politically predictable and obvious in their message.
In contrast, perhaps the most interesting of sculptures stood at the entrance: a full bodied feminist Mao laid across his back, legs spread widely as a blood-red dragon flew out of its vagina. The spectacle, placed strategically in the middle of the entrance, forced viewers to stop as they continued, rather reluctantly, into the space. Disturbing or delightfully innovative? Perhaps it is the duality of the two that distinguishes this Gao Brothers work. Despite its overt politicalness, the work’s ability to elicit an emotion, whether intrigue, fascination, or mere disgust represents an authentic testament to the duo's success as contemporary Chinese creators.
The most impressive work, in so far as political commentaries are concerned, was a large black and white photograph entitled Interview in which the brothers recreated a meeting of all the great communist leaders of the twentieth century. Dressed in typical costume, each leader was undeniably identifiable. The re-creation of such a gathering made one stop and contemplate; what a juxtaposition to create: an arguably ‘authentic’ photograph of the greatest communist minds contrasted with the repeated characterization of a single figure.
Stylistically, how could the two be created by the same duo? Even if the main message, albeit ‘kitsch’ in its communist commentary, united all works at the exhibition the diversity of display (sculpture versus photography) nonetheless presented an interesting juxtaposition. Even if Communism seems to be the motive behind most contemporary Chinese art today, the Gao Brothers recent exhibition brought an innovative approach to an already saturated trend.
Raised in the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia, Tara Desjardins interest in art started at a young age. Tara holds a B.A degree in Art History from Skidmore College, with a minor in Middle Eastern studies, and an M.A. degree in Art Business from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. Tara has worked for the chief curators of Islamic art at the British Museum and the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute. In addition, she has also worked as the press director at the Sherry French Gallery, New York City. Tara is currently an editorial assistant at Parkstone International as well as a Paris-based freelance writer specializing in Contemporary Arabic art. email@example.com
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