Chinese French conceptual artist Chen Zhen (1955–2000) is known for his large-scale works which use found objects—furniture, bicycles, barrels—to create highly textured assemblage sculptures. Short-Circuits, accompanying the eponymous exhibition, includes in-depth documentation of Chen Zhen’s installations from 1991 to 2000, the year of his untimely death. Conceived for the solo show at Pirelli HangarBicocca, this monograph covers the most important years in the artist’s career and explores the influence of his work on the artistic dialogue between East and West. This publication contains pivotal texts by Alexandra Munroe of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Marco Scotini of NABA, Milan, and FM Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea, Milan, and Vicente Todolí, the exhibition curator. The book also includes detailed descriptions of each work on display and a selection of preparatory drawings and sketches made by the artist.
This catalogue includes not only the collection of the artist’s works but it is also focused on the vision and overall thoughts of Chen Zhen.
The work of the artist is presented in chronological order, in two volumes with a slipcase. They will be proposed in two versions, one in French and the other one in English.
The first volume is dedicated to the years between 1977 and 1996 and it comprises the early years of activity in China and his moving in France. The second volume presents the artist’s works from 1997 until his death on the 13th of December 2000 and also comprises a section on his posthumous works, created using his projects.
Each volume is divided into five main parts. Each one of them has an introduction written by Isabelle Renard and Xu Min, a sort of reader’s guide. The different parts also include texts, interviews and essays.
Published by Verlag für moderne Kunst. Preface by Matt Gerald. Text by Ken Lum, Maité Vissault, Wang Min An.
Chen Zhen (1955-2000) was among the members of the Chinese avant-garde who chose exile over political repression. In 1986, he left home for Paris, where, after a few years of seclusion, he began to show pioneering work he called "open sculpture," which found swift international acclaim. Chen Zhen's pieces often presented utopias of multicultural dialogue, poetic landscapes full of unusual material alliances, hybrids and new connections between Eastern traditions and the Western artistic vocabulary. That fundamentally personal approach, in echoing his own spiritual seeking and cultural homelessness, radiates enormous power. Later the artist fused his chosen exile, his illness and traditional Chinese medicine, surveying and synergizing the relationships that define the social body. Works like "Lumière innocente," an incandescent cocoon of hospital tubing woven around the frame of an antique crib, and dated 2000, the year of his death, are both elegant and heart-wrenching. This selection of more than 30 drawings, photographic works, sculptures, and installations made between 1978 and 2000 tracks each major phase of the artist's work.
Chen Zhen was born in Shanghai in 1955 and died in Paris in December 2000. Since his early passing, interest in his artistic production has anything but waned--he is increasingly visible as both an irreplaceable talent unto himself and a missing piece in the increasingly widely acclaimed Chinese avant-garde. His admirers have founded the Association of the Friends of Chen Zhen, whose roster now includes the late Harald Szeemann, Hans Ulrich Obrist, designer Agnès B. and many prominent artists from Asia, Europe and the United States. With the encouragement of the Association and other allies and fans, Chen Zhen's work has been featured in international exhibitions including U.S. solo shows at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and at P.S. 1, New York. This volume makes available for the first time the sketches and proposals for projects left unrealized at the time of his death, allowing viewers to trace the trajectory his work might have taken. These glimpses of his working process offer insight into the ideas that drove him, and "translate" the visual and physical strategies viewers have seen in finished work into his own French and English. A proposal for a labyrinth expresses the desire to reach the "sublime spontaneously, the nature and the human spirituality…to reorganize the way of looking at the surrounding[s]" and "to raise the dream of tomorrow." He succeeded without even leaving the drawing board.
During the last five years of his life, Chen Zhen expended his energies to create a body of work that poetically articulated his knowledge of traditional Chinese culture and Western avant-garde art. Born in Shanghai in 1955, Chen grew up during the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution. When China transitioned out of that era, he became interested in combining traditional Chinese philosophy (forbidden under Maoist rule) and Western practices as an alternative to the government's official cultural ideology. The resulting body of work held as a central theme the creation of harmony through difference, taking the human body, illness and medicine as metaphors, mixing cross-cultural social dynamics before multiculturalism and globalization had ever been articulated. Exploring the intricate and often paradoxical relationship between the material and the spiritual, the community and the individual, interior and exterior, Chen used sound and everyday materials such as candles, beds, chairs, and even chamber pots, linking the physical world to the spiritual, ritualistic one. The result was an aesthetic immersed in the traditional past but aligned with the present. This catalogue accompanies an exhibition held at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in tribute to the artist, who died from a rare medical condition known as autoimmune hemolytic anemia in 2000, in Paris, where he had emigrated as an art student in the mid-80s.