This week I’m in New York City, so a number of upcoming posts, including this one, will feature interesting things I saw there. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China” is full of compelling works. One that I was particularly beguiled by was View of Tide by Yang Yongliang. This massive scroll (17 inches x 32 feet) at first glance looks like a relatively straightforward Chinese landscape. But as you get closer that familiar ground starts to shift right out from under you. It’s harder to see in this photograph, but the mountains are made of countless highrise buildings that have been copied and digitally manipulated. The trees are power line towers and construction cranes. Here, those ubiquitous markers of contemporary China – big buildings, rampant construction, and electricity – have become the landscape. It would be easy to view this as an entirely negative image and yet I don’t think it’s that simple. There is an undeniable beauty and energy to this work and while it’s a critique of the new, it’s also surely a critique of the old: landscape aesthetics are often idiosyncratic and always artificial.
Yang Yongliang – View of Tide