Walsh Gallery

Pushpamala N. / Xue Song


Dates: Feb 21 2003 - Apr 25 2003

Chicago, Illinois;

Artist Xue Song, from Shanghai, uses discarded and burned materials as his medium. Mr. Xue takes such diverse materials as propaganda leaflets from the cultural revolution, teaching manuals for traditional Chinese painting, and calendars as the source of his obsessive collages.

To commemorate a fire in his studio, in which he lost much of his work, Mr. Xue coats his canvases with ash before carefully burning each piece to be collaged. A transformation occurs through this singeing process in which discarded and found objects become purified and vital parts of a documentation process which is at once humorous and satirical.

Mr. Xue uses such cultural and political icons as Marilyn Monroe, Mao Zedong, and Richard Nixon in his collage constructions. For example in "Shaking Hands," Mr. Xue juxtaposes the outlines of Mao Zedong and Nixon shaking hands. Behind Mao are clippings recounting Mao's memory of the moment he met Nixon which includes torn paragraphs from Mao's famous "little red book." Mao's head is filled with nonsensical ancient forms of calligraphy contrasting a hodge-podge of cut up modern Chinese characters which makes up his body.

Nixon's body and face are made up of ash and black paint. Behind Nixon are America's red and white stripes but within each red stripe is an astounding collection of war planes and weaponry. Within each white stripe are torn pieces of American propaganda and clippings from the Chinese newspapers from Nixon's perspective about the moment he met Mao Zedong.

Xue Song's work has been seen exhibited internationally, including shows at: Shanghai Art Museum; Art/ 33/Basel, Switzerland; BM99 Bienal da Maya, Maya, Portugal; ArtChicago; Zacheta Modern Art Museum, Warsaw, Poland; and the National Art Museum, Beijing. Mr. Xue's works have been collected by such corporations as Microsoft and Southwest Bell.

GALLERIES II, III and IV : PUSHPAMALA N., performance photography

Julie Walsh, director of Walsh Gallery, first saw Pushpamala N.'s photography in a slide show in spring, 2001 by renowned art critic Geeta Kapur at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Later that summer, she saw her work at a large show of contemporary Indian art curated by Gulamohammed Sheikh in Manchester, England. Pushpamala N.'s photos are a delightful and odd tribute to Indian female archetypes and stereotypes referencing old Bollywood films, songs, novels and photography. Although Pushpamala N. uses herself as the subject in each of her photos, she also includes celebrities from the Indian art world such as Atul Dodiya as well as friends and strangers she meets.

Much like Cindy Sherman, Pushpamala N. has succeeded in finding a whole artistic vocabulary within popular culture. Effortlessly shifting between genres like "the thriller" or "the fairy tale," Pushpamala is clearly fascinated with evoking the viewers' own projections. Walsh Gallery's February 21st show will exhibit her photographic series entitled "Phantom Lady or Kismet" as well as "Sunhere Sapne or Golden Dreams." The "Phantom Lady" is an excessive spoof on "the thriller." The loose plot involves twins separated at birth and the "Phantom Lady's" attempt to find her sister again. In "Sunhere Sapne," Pushpamala uses hand painted photographs of herself to explore her own existence through the avenue of archetypes, feminine stereotypes, and the inexhaustible world of clich'es.

Geeta Kapur describes Pushpamala's N.'s hand tinted photographs as being "the perfect simulacrum; the copy of a copy, the original of which does not exist."

Pushpamala N.'s work has exhibited at: National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; Johannesburg Biennale, South Africa; Los Angeles Biennale, USA; and the Tate Modern, UK.

*Pushpamala N.'s exhibit coincides with "Vision of Transcendence: Painting and Sculpture from India, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia" at Rhona Hoffman Gallery March 21-April 25, 2003 and "Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure," at The Art Institute of Chicago, April 5-Aug. 17, 2003.

Thus in the next couple of months there will be a critical mass of Indian art available to Chicagoans for the first time.