October 1, 2010 - Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) - Cai Guo-Qiang
October 1, 2010

Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang igniting the gunpowder drawing “Mermaid,” Nagoya, Japan, 2010.
Photo by Ito Tetsuo.*

Cai Guo-Qiang

October 17, 2010

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
1001 Bissonnet at Main
Houston, Texas 77005

Artist Cai Guo-Qiang creates one of his largest gunpowder drawings to date for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Cai will create Odyssey in Houston October 4-6, with the public observing; work will be installed in the new Arts of China Gallery, opening October 17.

Commission is the first in a series from contemporary artists for the MFAH’s Arts of Asia galleries.

Artist Cai Guo-Qiang has long been known internationally for his prolific and multi-disciplinary body of work that fuses the mythic and the everyday. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has commissioned Cai to create his first permanent, site-specific installation in a U.S. museum, in an event that will be open to the public: a monumental ethereal landscape that will line the four walls of the MFAH’s Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Arts of China Gallery, which opens October 17. The drawing, Odyssey, is the latest in the artist’s two-decades-long signature series of gunpowder drawings.

“Cai Guo-Qiang is a master of the poetic on a grand scale,” commented Peter C. Marzio, director of the MFAH. “His project for the Arts of China gallery will establish a singular vision for presenting the museum’s collection of art from China, furthering the dialogue between artworks from different time periods within the galleries, and presenting a fresh perspective on Chinese art across millennia.”

“Cai Guo-Qiang’s work takes us from the world of the mythic, the source of creative life, to the modern life of China and the world around us,” said Christine Starkman, MFAH curator for Asian art. “His project for the Arts of China Gallery brings these spheres together, and allows us to see that they are, remarkably, inescapably connected.”

Cai will create the piece in a 25,000-square-foot warehouse from Monday through Wednesday, October 3 through 6. Involving the artist and about 100 local volunteers, the creative process will be accessible to the public on Tuesday, October 5 and Wednesday, October 6, and will be streamed via live feed from 9 am to 8 pm on Wednesday at www.culturemap.com. The work will span 42 panels totaling 10 by 162 feet. The artist and his crew will lay the panels on the floor, and then apply an assorted mix of gunpowder to the panels, before igniting the drawing with a fuse. The subsequent explosion, manipulated through various forms of control and mixed with a streak of chance, will emit the energy and fumes that produce the final work. The panels will then be installed back at the museum prior to the Sunday, October 17, opening day.

“The commission for the MFAH is a challenge and an exploration of how to show Oriental cultural relics. By creating a spiritual dimension that simultaneously displays ancient and modern art, the space becomes a portal where antiquity encounters the modern,” the artist stated. “In recent years, through my gunpowder drawings, I have been exploring the free-spirited style in traditional Chinese painting. Odyssey not only symbolizes the voyage that Chinese culture has taken from antiquity to modern times, it is also about the ancient Chinese literati’s journeys of the mind between heaven and earth. It removes us from the materialism, the hustle and bustle of modern civilization, allowing us to seek self-exile, wander aimlessly and embark on a spiritual odyssey of our own.”

The commission is part of the MFAH’s developing “Portals Project.” This planned series of commissions from four contemporary artists is intended to provide a contemporary perspective onto the collections of Korean, Indian, Chinese and Japanese art that have been developed for this new suite of galleries over the past three years.

For museum information, please call 713-639-7300, or visit www.mfah.org on your desktop or mobile device.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH)
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