Xu Bing’s Phoenix is worth seeing with your own eyes. Mass has been instilled with grace, a legendary Chinese bird carries a message about China today, a playful artwork is dead serious.
It’s installed at Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts through October 27. Read more about Xu Bing and see more images in my post here.
Let’s start with the curves. In an age when a pile of random bricks or bright-wrapped candies can get displayed as art Xu Bing and his team have labored to refine the details of their two behemoth phoenixes. They’re made of construction-site rubbish. If you could stand them on end they’d equal a nine- and a ten-story building. Yet the fluidity of these fabric plumes convinces you of air currents. It’s no accident — it’s superb artistry that offers us this lilting vision.
Same with the metal. Here curving detritus is made lyrical. Those grungy arcs: beauty inherent and found. The white dots you see are LEDs that trace the forms. If you visit closer to the exhibit’s closing date [October 27] it may be dark enough by Mass MoCA’s closing time that you can appreciate the nocturnal plumage.
More of a curvaceous tail feather
This last image is an example of the carnival flair in the artwork. Each attachment to the ceiling has a bright orange pulley and vivid blue-trimmed yellow strap.
I won’t report here on Xu Bing’s other works simultaneously on display. They’re as varied as cherry pie and loggers’ boots and convinced me of this man’s intelligence and belief in what he does. This too is something to experience.
if you go:
The Clark Institute in Williamstown, MA has Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History. In my view no visit to Mass MoCA should pass without a visit to the estimable Clark. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both praise the show. Through September 8.
The Bridle Path, White Mountains, by Winslow Homer
This unfamiliar Homer painting arrested me. The sunlight limning the palfrey’s legs is delicate, intense, a bravura touch by a phenomenal painter.
Where to stay
I’ve by no means tried all the options around North Adams but when I return I’ll go back to The Porches Inn across the street from Mass MoCA. All of our party enjoyed it. I can’t resist adding a shot of the tile artwork on their garage building. The artist is Mike Glier. I’d love to see more of his tile work online. My apologies for the poor images: iPhone, poor light. The heads of these birds are a glorious blue.
Behind The Porches front desk.
Eating in North Adams
We had great hamburgers, mussels, quaffs and service at Public eat+drink.
Your descriptions of Xu Bing’s Phoenix brought me back to the moment I first laid eyes on these magnificent works. Thank you for contributing your insight and enthusiasm for this wonderful exhibit.
Thanks Nadine — the Xu Bing work is truly monumental. I read that the Colossus of Rhodes stood over 98 feet tall. Imagine seeing the Phoenixes and the Colossus displayed together. The Great Pyramid at Giza was over 481 feet — to see all of these together!