Back To The Garden: Daily Life to Spiritual Vision

Nathalie Alonso
April 17, 2008

To the careful listener, entering Queens Crossing on 39th Avenue in Flushing might invoke the feeling of stepping into a temple or another sacred space.

According to Auburndale resident Luchia Meihua Lee, the curator at the Crossing Art gallery on the fourth floor of the mixed-use commercial complex, that is the effect of the bell-like pitches produced by striking 108 different rice bowls from around the world. The sound emanates from the video accompanying Malaysian-born Chinese artist Chee Wang Ng’s “I Ching Hexagram — Inner Truth,” which features the bowls that Ng spent 15 years collecting.

“Each bowl has its own identity,” Lee noted. Ng’s site-specific installation, which underscores the universality of what is considered traditional Chinese culture, is located between the first and second floor stairways.
It is part of an exhibition titled “Back to the Garden: Daily Life to Spiritual Vision,” which encompasses the entire building.

Crossing Art opened just last month in a space somewhat atypical for an art gallery. Lee said she tries to create exhibits that are user-friendly to accomodate the commercial space. Many of the works are site-specific because of the building’s design, which includes a high atrium.

Crossing Art’s current mixed-media exhibition takes its name from the lyrics of the song “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell, which speaks of a return to utopian existence.

“The goal is a return to the spiritual,” Lee said, remarking generally about life and specifically about the exhibition.

Inside the gallery, Korean artist Eun Young Choi’s “Apple Juice Kisses & Champagne Farts” — an assortment of stickers on bubble-like circles of silver Mylar — reflects the viewer’s image, thus allowing those who contemplate it to literally see themselves in Choi’s depiction of a childhood fantasy world.

Although the garden invoked by the title is symbolic, there are organic components to the exhibition. “Jungle Tango,” a site-specific piece by Chinese artist Ming Fay, uses paper pulp, urethane foam and paint to create colorful tangles of vegetation that hang from the ceiling. Portions of “Jungle Tango” also hang from the atrium on the side of the building facing 39th Avenue.

At first glance, the items in Chinese painter and sculptor Zhang Hongtu’s “Mai Dang Lao” resemble nondescript ancient relics. A closer look reveals that they are in fact McDonald’s food containers recreated from cast bronze. Hongtu, a resident of Woodside, borrows iconic images from Western art and popular consumer culture — from Coca-Cola bottles to Vincent Van Gogh’s famous impressionist painting Starry Night — and transforms them into traditional Chinese artifacts.

“I don’t think anything is pure today in the world when we talk about culture. Everything is mixed,” he said. “I really enjoy blurring the boundaries between cultures.”

Also among Hongtu’s works is a print of his painting “Last Banquet,” which takes Leonardo da Vinci’s famous work, “The Last Supper,” and replaces Jesus and the 12 disciples with 13 depictions of Chinese Communist dictator Mao Zedong.

Hongtu believes that Flushing is an ideal venue for displaying his art. “I’m really concerned about the function of art, which is communication between artists and the world,” he said. “In Queens, in Flushing, there are more people from different cultural backgrounds. It’s a good opportunity to communicate with different people, to exchange ideas. That is the only way to make people understand each other and make the world peaceful.”

The exhibition also includes an interactive installation by Taiwanese artist Lin Pey Chwen entitled “Virtual Creation.” It allows viewers to design their own animated butterflies using a touch-screen monitor.

Chwen described her work in the exhibition’s accompanying catalogue: “My art satirizes the tendency of humans to play the role of the creator,” she said.

“Back to the Garden: Daily Life to Spiritual Vision” is on display at the Crossing Art gallery at Queens Crossing, located at 136-20 38th Ave. in Flushing through April 26. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.crossingart.com or call the gallery at 212-359-4333.

Copyright © 2008 Queens Chronicle

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