Enfilade

Exhibition | Chinamania: Walter McConnell

Posted in exhibitions, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on July 1, 2016

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Contemporary art, engaging an iconic nineteenth-century interior, engaging perennially popular early eighteenth-century ceramics—opening next week at the Sackler:

Chinamania: Walter McConnell
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., 9 July 2016 — 4 June 2017

A mania for Chinese blue-and-white porcelain swept through London in the 1870s as a new generation of artists and collectors ‘rediscovered’ imported wares from Asia. Foremost among them was American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler. For him, porcelain was a source of serious aesthetic inspiration. For British shoppers, however, Chinese ceramics signified status and good taste. Cultural commentators of the time both embraced and poked fun at the porcelain craze. Illustrator George du Maurier parodied the fad in a series of cartoons for Punch magazine that documented what he mockingly called “Chinamania.”

More than a hundred fifty years later, American artist Walter McConnell explores Chinamania in our own time. In this exhibition, he juxtaposes two monumental porcelain sculptures, which he terms stupas, with export wares from China’s Kangxi period (1662–1722). Those blue-and-white ceramics are similar to those that once filled the shelves of Whistler’s Peacock Room in London. These historical porcelains also inspired McConnell to create a new work based on 3D-printed replicas. His interest in replication and in the serialized mass production of ceramic forms began after he visited China more than a decade ago. The large kilns and busy factories at Jingdezhen prompted McConnell to look at China as an enduring resource for ceramic production.

Chinamania complements the exhibition Peacock Room REMIX: Darren Waterston’s Filthy Lucre, a contemporary installation that reimagines the Peacock Room as a resplendent ruin. Inspired by museum founder Charles Lang Freer’s collection of Asian ceramics, Waterston painted scores of vessels and arranged them on the buckling shelves of Filthy Lucre. These oozing, misshapen ceramics convey a sense of unsustainable luxury and excess. They also echo McConnell’s interest in the interplay of creativity, the mass production of aesthetic objects, and the powerful forces of materialism and conspicuous consumption.

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Summer Open House: Chinamania After-Hours Preview
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., 8 July 2016

Free and open to the public

Join us for a special after-hours celebration of the opening of Chinamania, the third and final installation in the Peacock Room REMIX series. Explore the craze for Chinese porcelain that took the West by storm in the nineteenth century and discover the interplay between creativity and mass production. Chinese blue-and-white ceramics from the Freer|Sackler collection join monumental installations by contemporary sculptor Walter McConnell and 3D objects printed especially for this exhibition.

The open house will feature tours led by McConnell and curator Lee Glazer, music, photo booths, and hands-on activities such as customizable screen-printed tote bags and create-your-own stop motion animation, featuring decorative motifs inspired by Chinese blue-and-white porcelain.

Across the street from the Sackler, food will be available through the USDA Farmer’s Market at Night, which hosts over 20 of our city’s most popular local food trucks from 4:00 to 7:00pm. So come get a first look at Chinamania and enjoy a picnic on the National Mall.

Friday, July 8, 5:30pm, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C.

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