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Li Xiaofeng & Cao Xiaodong at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables

Li Xiaofeng, Dream of the Yong Le, 31 ¾” x 29 ½” x 13 ¾” inches.?Porcelain fragments from the Ming, Yuan and Qing dynasties, 2006-2008

A 43-year-old Beijing artist may have hit on the ultimate in recycling: he fits fragments of porcelain from the Ming, Qing, Yuan and Song dynasties together like parts of a jigsaw puzzle and sews them with silver wire into full-length garments.

For the first time outside China, two of the dresses and a man’s jacket, shirt and tie (all made of ancient porcelain shards gathered over the years by Li Xiaofeng) are being exhibited in SAVE AS: Chinese Art Born of Ancient Traditions at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in downtown Coral Gables.

One dress and the jacket include shards from dynasties as far back as the 13th Century, notes gallery owner Virginia Miller.

A catalog that accompanies the works shows the artist and his young daughter actually wearing the porcelain garments. During a brief visit, the artist’s first trip outside China, Li Xiaofeng explained through an interpreter that if the garment is built around a person, he or she can wear it.

Being exhibited with the ceramic works is the first one-person exhibition outside China of paintings by Cao Xiaodong. Like other artists in China, during the Cultural Revolution he was forced to work in another field (in his case, publications design). During that era, the only way to reproduce photographs on paper was to print them as a dot pattern known after their inventor, a printer named Ben Day.

Xiaodong paints historic photos as a Ben Day screened print to achieve a sense of nostalgia, like an old newspaper illustration. His favorite subjects are to contrast the social context in China with the same period in Europe or the United States - Cultural Revolution women in dowdy army uniforms with Playboy Bunnies, or Mao Zedong with Marilyn Monroe, both in bathing suits.

Several paintings offer side-by-side scenes from the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and the May 1968 student demonstration in Paris. Another shows the torch relays in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, reminders of the transitory nature of the event’s egalitarian idealism.

An exception to the dual-scene works is a striking portrait of Ruan Lingyu, one of China’s most beloved film stars of the silent era of cinema, hounded by tabloids into committing suicide when she was 24. Another is an unusual portrait of Mao Zedong, fragmenting his face into 16 panels from different periods. 

ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries.?169 Madeira Avenue Coral Gables (Miami), Florida 33134?tel: 305 444 4493 fax: 305 444 9844


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