"It's very interesting because in my own life, I'm very private and low-key. For my work it's just the opposite; I want to be involved with the audience and society. My work, actually, is not art for art's sake; it's more... [more]
"It's very interesting because in my own life, I'm very private and low-key. For my work it's just the opposite; I want to be involved with the audience and society. My work, actually, is not art for art's sake; it's more on the cultural side and the way you talk about culture can extend to politics, the economy, it can be related to so many different things."
Wenda Gu's words could apply to gaggles of Postmodern artists, particularly those hailing from Post-Colonial contexts. Like his peers, Gu struggles with Modernism (art for art's sake), juggles issues of nationalism, and confronts the way that aesthetics react to our global economy and politics. But unlike others, he has found ways to speak across cultural divides to access the underlying commonalities of humanity.
Gu was born and educated in Shanghai, where he studied traditional Chinese ink-and-brush painting. After graduating from the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts, he took a teaching position at the school. But an interest in Western philosophy led him to pursue a self-directed study of European classics and American Modernism -- in 1987 he came to the West to force a cultural collision.
Most test crashes produce intriguing debris, and the rough meeting of Chinese and European ideology in Gu's work is no exception. Since 1993, he has been involved in an ongoing project entitled "United Nations." Using samples of human hair gathered from far-flung regions of the world, he explores issues of globalization and hybridity with sensuality, intelligence, and playfulness. Large nets and tunnels are constructed from the tufts of hair, then integrated with letters and phrases printed in sometimes undecipherable scripts. Despite this flirtation with sign and symbol (Gu ingeniously titled one piece "Fake and Unfake Text"), hair is the essential ingredient for Gu:
"By using human hair in my work it becomes a readymade object. Human hair is [a] very unique subject and the work itself becomes immediate. The audience, when they see the work, will immediately relate to the work because the materials come from themselves. They will feel closer and that's what I hope the work will do -- to close the gap between the media and the audience. That's what I feel the work can do; to be more connected to the people rather than having people see the work as just a piece of stone, or metal."
Gu is clearly extending an invitation to his viewer, and in doing so he separates himself from many Postmodern artists. His intention is to create a conversation with a global scope. Far from retreating to a room of his own (or a single medium or language of his choice), Gu creates inclusive pieces that are meant to foster communication and connection. [show less]