Synesthesia was a frequent fascination of Western modernists. In “Music to My Eyes,” Beijing-based curator Karen Smith’s variation on this old theme, visitors heard bands including Girl Kill Girl, Dead J, and ZigZag. They see Liu Ye’s small paintings of Mozart, Chet Baker, and Taiwanese pop singer Teresa Teng and enter Kaleidoscope (all works 2009), a cycloramic environment designed by Chen Hangfeng and Ben Houge, which displays—on six walls and in real time—images taken through a kaleidoscope at the door of the museum. Changing Street Orchestra by Mathieu Borysevicz uses three-screen cinematic juxtapositions of advertising billboards and pictures of workers to offer political perspective on the immense gap between poor and rich. The autobiographical video Something Missing by Pei Li—the only woman in the show—shows the artist painting and repainting images on a wall: aggressively angry scenes of a failed love. Speakers play Wu Ershan’s Club Revolution remixes, which combine Western rhythms and Chinese-opera scores. Meanwhile, Wang Bo’s punching-bag figures serve as an outlet for unresolved frustration toward school bullies, and Zou Yeu’s film walks viewers through the new Beijing airport. In Xu Routao’s I See It: I Hear It—the most extreme realization of Smith’s vision—an abstract painting, scanned to create a musical score, lets visitors also hear a systematized translation of what they see. At a time when too much on display in the country’s commercial galleries is cliché, this exhibition, revealing the extraordinary range of contemporary Chinese art, is emphatically more than the sum of its parts.
—David Carrier, Artforum