There are many exciting modern art shows in New York this Spring, Jeff Koons at the Metropolitan Museum, Olafur Eliasson at MoMA but none makes a more immediate first impression than Cai Guo-Qiang’ s retrospective: I want to Believe.
Inspired by a car bomb, Inopportune Stage One occupies the rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, New York and is the initial installation of Cai’s work. From the center of the floor nine cars tumble skywards while lasers of different colors shoot out of the vehicles, turning an image of destruction into one of beauty. Visitors can view the cars from all angles as they walk through the spiraling gallery, as if experiencing an explosion in slow-motion.
Further along the gallery a pack of wolves hurtles into a glass wall and a fishing boat pierced with 3,000 arrows is suspended from the ceiling. For such a large-scale exhibition the art is very accessible, even intimate. Visitors can walk among the exhibits, including the life-size clay figures in the Rent Collection Courtyard or paddle through a canal on an animal hide raft in An Arbitrary History: River.
The exhibition assaults the ears as well as the eyes. Apart from the giant installations there are video documentations of Cai’s work with gunpowder: controlled explosions along the Great Wall of China, canon shooting out clouds of smut that resemble ethereal but deadly butterflies, over Valencia and Edinburgh Castle. Large works of art created by exploding gunpowder on paper are hung on the upper floors of the gallery.
Most of the works were shown first at other galleries but there is something about the unique space of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum that is superbly suited to Cai’s work. If you can’t get to the show in person be sure to visit the website to see how some of the exhibits were installed.
The retrospective runs through May 28 2008.