Thing-in-itself: Utopia, Pop and Personal Theology
Today Art Museum is the first private, non-profit international contemporary art museum in China. It has long been dedicated to the exhibition and research of Chinese contemporary art and the establishment of linkage with international contemporary art. It has staged many large scale contemporary art exhibitions, and is highly regarded both at home and abroad. From October 14 to November 27 2012, Today Art Museum will hold the large scale research exhibition “Thing-in-itself: Utopia, Pop and Personal Mythology – Wang Guangyi Retrospective,” supervised by Zhang Zikang and curated by Huang Zhuan.
The idea of the “thing-in-itself” is a core concept in Kantian philosophy, as well as a central theme in the history of modern thought. Thing-in-itself is the source and foundation of phenomena and sensory material, but are also unknowable things that lie beyond human cognition, imbued with a priori spatiotemporal form and universal, absolute metaphysical properties. Dialectically, it is a category that is distinguished from the “thing-for-us,” and in contemporary art history, this category has manifested as a series of multiple and paradoxical relationships between things and words, materials and ideas, reason and belief.
Wang Guangyi has been one of the most representative artists in Chinese modernist art history since the 1980s. His artistic path embodies the complex paradoxical logic of Chinese contemporary art’s progression from its era of enlightenment to avant-gardism, postmodernism and consumerism, but for a long time, critique and research of him has been misconstrued and limited by cold war critical discourse and the commercial capitalist interpretation that is “political pop.” There is a need for an individual case study that takes the history of Chinese thought and visual culture into account.
“Politics, Art and Mythology: the Wang Guangyi Art Research Project” will use the theme of “thing-in-self” to engage in in-depth academic research of the historical dialectic properties of the rationality and faith, secular and transcendental, political and mythological contents of Wang Guangyi’s art, and will use this research-oriented presentation of a typical case study in Chinese contemporary art history to apply combined art history and intellectual history methods to holistically clarify the internal logic, image methods and situational influences taking place within this period of history. The academic goal of this pursuit is to provide a Chinese-language critical case study for the global theoretical interpretation system of contemporary art.