Asian American Arts Centre helps promote Yun-Fei Ji’s recent exhibition
|Yun-Fei Ji, Last Days of Village Wen (detail), 2011|
Yun-Fei Ji’s “Rumors, Ridicules, and Retributions” is on view at the James Cohan Gallery at 291 Grand St through June 17. Ji’s previous work addressed the effects of the Three Gorges Dam on community displacement. Much of his new work addresses a similar project, the Nan Shui Bei Diao, or South-North Water Division, which plans to divert water from rural areas to rapidly growing urban centers. The resulting displacement of rural Chinese communities can be viewed parallel to the displacement of Asian American communities in Chinatown due to gentrification, as well as broader discourse on immigration in the US and abroad; the implications of Ji’s work extend to various global populations and ideological debates. Ji’s usage of traditional Chinese painting techniques to represent these scenes of industrial disaster and political and cultural history is subtle, subversive, and immensely relevant.
Yun-Fei Ji is one of many artists who were supported by the Asian American Arts Centre in the early stages of their careers before achieving international fame. His return to Chinatown is significant as he continues to pose questions important to Asian American activism and situate Asian issues in the contemporary art world, breaking down the concept of “Asian” as “other.” Through exhibitions such as Ji’s, AAAC aims to break down the isolation of the Asian American/Chinatown community so its culture becomes as well-known as its cuisine, and Asian American art becomes integrated within an international and city-wide context. Yun-Fei Ji’s exhibition can be situated in the context of Chinatown, China, and other displaced communities and environmental discourses, making his work and his presence vital to AAAC’s mission.
|Yun-Fei Ji, Mistaking Each Other For Ghosts, 2007|
AAAC brought together and worked with local artists and cultural activists to explore and develop a positive approach to promoting this exhibition. Community cultural perspectives and viewpoints from China helped to inform the following statement released by AAAC:
“Yun Fei Ji is coming to Chinatown. Such a prominent artist who is internationally recognized has asked that his next exhibition in NYC opening on April 28th be in this community. The last time he was here was in 96’ and 99’ when I had the chance to exhibit him at AAAC – Asian American Arts Centre. At that time he was an emerging artist. Long before his work was featured in ‘Displacement: the Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese Art’ in 2008 where reports of the flooding of the Yangtze River were based on his own interviews, research and observations, that revealed the impact on the Chinese people and their environment became an international story.
“As an American citizen he has seen other disasters, Hurricane Katrina, the financial crisis. His work has been about China, his quotes – ‘What do you do when so much control and power is concentrated in the hands of a few?’ ‘I saw…how the people who put in all the work paid the price, and the people who benefited from all the work paid no price.’ these are about China too, but their meaning has implications everywhere. This will be his sixth exhibition at the James Cohan Gallery over several years, some at their gallery in Shanghai. This is the first however, on 291 Grand St.
“ ‘I try to mimic the method that underlies …early Chinese characters: I invent forms that are like words to describe the world’ – Yun Fei Ji offers us as Chinese a way to describe the world, even the world of New York City.
“I have had the chance to exhibit several artists who are well known today, Ai Wei Wei, Mel Chin, Martin Wong, Xu Bing, and Zhang Hongtu among them, but all before they became so prominent. This may be the first time I will have the chance to welcome such an important artist back to this community. More of us going to the opening night would make this a wonderful occasion. Artists like these can give us and Chinatown itself a new image, can give us a sense of who we are today.”
James Cohan Gallery has represented Asian American artists for over ten years and we thank them for their support. AAAC also thanks Bill Weinberg and Rong Xiaoqing, who have written insightful articles on Yun-Fei Ji’s exhibition at Village Voice and Sing Tao Daily. AAAC additionally thanks John Yau, poet and art critic, for his participation in the discussion with Yun-Fei Ji and Bob Lee of AAAC on Saturday, June 9 – 4pm to 6pm at James Cohan Gallery. John was in the first panel talk AAAC sponsored in 1983 so it is most appropriate he joins us for this event.