炼金术与问寻: Philip Taaffe 菲利普•塔菲, Fred Tomaselli 弗雷德•托马塞利, Terry Winters 特里•温特斯
September 9 - November 19, 2011
Perfect punctuality is a practical impossibility in Shanghai. Humans, machines, and the city’s layout all stand poised to waylay a local or a visitor at a moment’s notice. One minute the taxi is zooming past green lights, the next it sits idle in a sluggish stream of automobiles, each carrying a person, an important person with places to go.
So on a gray October morning, it was quite to my surprise that without trying I had arrived at the James Cohan Gallery’s Shanghai outpost not only on time, but early. At ten minutes to ten o’clock, the gallery’s front door was locked, not a light was on, and phone calls went straight to voicemail. There was nothing much to do except stand, then walk, and wait in the lush courtyard that the gallery shares with a few other lucky tenants in the lane. A light rain had fell in the early morning and the sky remained overcast. Tall shade trees blocked what little light broke through the rain clouds. The stone stools and benches that had looked inviting on a previous visit—during a sunny interlude—now seemed like the last remnants of a collapsed civilization, and I an ignorant treasure hunter who was searching for answers in the wrong places.
Then I heard a metallic click, like a lock turning, followed by a slight squeak and the warm greeting in English, “Good morning!” I turned to see Arthur Solway, the gallery’s director, standing in the open doorway. Behind him bloomed an exploding red flower whose petals reached out from an infinite black. Stepping into the gallery, I was awed by the visions of plant and wild life growing on the pristine white walls. Up close, I saw that the flower was a photo collage by Fred Tomaselli from 2011, titled Dahlia. Suspended in high-gloss resin, images cut out from books and magazines—flowers, birds, leaves, eyes and noses—were arranged in a dazzling complexity that spread over the surface of the painting like an exploding star.
To its left and right were two additional collages by Tomaselli in his characteristically surreal style. The Dust Blows Forward, The Dust Blows Back (2011) showed a majestic blue jay bird, its beak parted, standing in front of a primordial landscape of floating red and orange swirls. In Coldframe (2011), Tomaselli used leaves from his own garden to form the collage’s first layer, which he painted over with acrylic in bright shades of blue, green, orange, yellow, and purple, making the viewer see each humble leaf for the jewel of nature that it is.
Originally organized by curators Raymond Foye and Jennifer McGregor, the exhibition was first shown at the Wave Hill botanical garden in New York City. So it was no surprise that nature in its many guises was the central theme connecting the works shown. Paintings of plants and corals by Philip Taaffe expressed a serene yet no less vibrant botanical world. Whereas the works on paper by Terry Winters explored the universal, geometric underpinnings that connect nature to the manmade.
In each room of the gallery, I felt as if I had walked into a different part of a forest, or just merely an extension of the trees and flowers that I had just seen outside. Indeed, I had stumbled into a post-historic world, and here was its temple brimming with life and untold prophecies. I wish I could have stayed there forever.
[Image credit: James Cohan Gallery]