Sky Ladder

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Ignition of Cai Guo-Qiang’s gunpowder drawing Odyssey, Houston, October 6, 2010 © Photo by I-Hua Lee, courtesy Cai Studio
Cai Guo-Qiang and volunteers working on gunpowder drawing Frieze, Doha, Qatar , 2011 © Courtesy Cai Studio, photo by Lin Yi
Sky Ladder

152 N. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
April 8th, 2012 - September 3rd, 2012
Opening: April 8th, 2012 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM

downtown/east la
213.626.6222 (general)
Mon 11-5; Thu 11-8; Fri 11-5; Sat-Sun 11-6; closed Tue-Wed


MOCA presents Cai Guo-Qiang: Sky Ladder, the first West Coast solo exhibition of the New York–based artist, known for his gunpowder drawings, installations, and explosion events. The exhibition will be on view at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA from April 8–July 30, 2012, and will feature new works commissioned by MOCA, including three gunpowder drawings and a public outdoor explosion event created onsite at the museum.

Cai Guo-Qiang: Sky Ladder explores Cai’s lifelong fascination with the unseen forces in the physical and metaphysical worlds. His view of the universe is one Cai came to on his own, through popular books, folk traditions, his curiosity about cosmological phenomena, and realizations about life. For Cai, time and space are one entity because the word for “universe” in Chinese, yuzhou, consists of space (yu) and time (zhou). His explosion events and installations aptly incorporate both temporal and spatial dynamics, and the creative process is also part of the finished work. The spontaneity and unpredictability evident in his site-specific, community-based works reflect the principles of feng shui and Chinese medicine adapted in his artistic methodology, which allow nature to take its course and the artist to make the most of a given situation.

“Cai Guo-Qiang fuses historical references and a futuristic vision to create art that is totally contemporary,” commented MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch. “His work engages his audiences both experientially and visually. It is spectacular but also intimate. Cai draws the viewer into his imagined world.”

Cai sees his art as a “time-space tunnel through which the visible world communicates with the energy from the unseen world.” Museum visitors will have the chance to witness Cai’s versatility through the exhibition and surrounding events—he uses different materials and art forms to visualize the invisible forces in nature, in imaginative and playful ways.

“This is a pivotal event for the contemporary art scene in Los Angeles,” said Dominic Ng, chairman and CEO of East West Bank. “We are honored to be partnering with MOCA to bring the world-renowned work of Cai Guo-Qiang to our city. To experience Cai Guo-Qiang’s work is not only visually compelling and thought provoking, but represents the fresh and distinctive nature of contemporary Chinese art as it becomes an increasingly dynamic force in the international art world.”

The exhibition will open with a public outdoor explosion event, Mystery Circle: Explosion Event for The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, on the exterior wall of The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (facing Temple Street) at 7:30pm on Saturday, April 7. Mystery Circle, a site-specific work created for MOCA, will contain three stages of special pyrotechnics. At dusk, a myriad of flying saucer girandolas will rise from the rooftop. At the moment of ignition, countless mini rockets forming a string of crop circles will launch toward the audience before falling onto the ground in a matter of seconds. Subsequently, an imaginary alien-god figure on the left side of the wall will be outlined from bottom to top by gunpowder fuse. When the burned fuses reach the “halo” of the figure, mini rockets will shoot upward to the air. The rockets will leave a burned imprint on the museum wall, creating an outdoor drawing. While Cai’s signature explosion events Project for Extraterrestrials have been dedicated to the creatures from outer space, his new project at MOCA will be the first time an imaginary alien figure actually appears.

From March 3 through 10, the artist will collaborate with local volunteers to make three new gunpowder drawings for MOCA’s exhibition. In order of production, the first gunpowder work to be exploded on canvas, Chaos in Nature (approx. 11 x 49 feet), will depict uncontrollable forces in nature such as earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes. The second gunpowder work on canvas, Zero Gravity (approx. 11 x 39 feet), will portray mankind’s undying fantasy to defy gravity and its unsuccessful challenges by naïve measures since antiquity. The last gunpowder drawing, Childhood Spaceship, made on Japanese hemp paper, will be monumental in scale (13 feet high x 108 feet wide), and will present imagery of related figures, memories, and objects that have sparked the artist’s curiosity about the universe since his youth. Cai draws inspiration for these fantastic mural-like drawings from his homeland, family members, Chinese medicine, feng shui, QiGong, modern astrophysics, space voyages, natural and supernatural phenomena, as well as from images of Project for Extraterrestrials.

Crop Circle is an installation made with reeds, mimicking the patterns of mysterious crop circles around the world. It will occupy the center of the gallery and be suspended from the ceiling, suggesting an inversion of time and space.

Three videos will also be presented, including a compilation of Cai’s past explosion projects, documentation of the gunpowder drawing creation process at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, and documentation of Mystery Circle.

The exhibition is curated by MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch and MOCA Associate Curator Rebecca Morse, in close collaboration with the artist.