08 April - 30 July 2012
|© Cai Guo-Qiang|
Desire for Zero Gravity, 2012
gunpowder on canvas, mounted on wood as six-panel screen
340.36 x 1066.8 cm (134 x 420 in.)
commissioned by The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles
photo by Joshua White, courtesy The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
8 April - 30 July, 2012
Cai Guo-Qiang: Sky Ladder is the first West Coast solo museum exhibition of the work of artist Cai Guo-Qiang. Known for his explosion projects and gunpowder drawings. Cai’s work integrates manual technique and new, highly sophisticated developments in pyrotechnic technology.
The exhibition will be composed of an outdoor explosion event, a suspended sculptural installation, three gunpowder drawings, and video compilations, which together press Cai’s exploration of natural forces and extraterrestrial life. The outdoor explosion project, titled Mystery Circle: Explosion Project for MOCA, Los Angeles, is the latest work in Cai’s Projects for Extraterrestrials series that began in 1989 and has since included more than 30 works. Located on the northern exterior wall of The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, the piece will be ignited on April 7 to create a spectacular explosion, including pyrotechnic flying saucers, burning crop circles, and an alien god. The composition echoes the crop circle theme, which first appeared in Cai’s I am an Extraterrestrial, Project for Meeting with Tenjin (Heavenly Gods): Project for Extraterrestrials No. 4. (1990), in which the viewer looks down on a line of five crop circles in diminishing size.
Inside the Geffen, the theme will be carried out by an installation suspended from the ceiling that replicates the crop circles that have appeared in the grain fields all over the world, particularly in southern England for over twenty years. As visitors gaze up they will have the sensation of looking down on the earth from the sky, upsetting their orientation and their relationship to their own bodies.
Three gunpowder drawings will be created adjacent to the Crop Circles installation. The most monumental drawing, Childhood Spaceship, reveals Cai's childhood reveries of the universe. Chaos in Nature portrays unstoppable forces and natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanoes. The third drawing, Desire for Zero Gravity, tells a compelling narrative using 16th-century Chinese official Wan Hu as the subject, who in a quest to catapult himself into outer space, perished on his homemade rocket chair. Hu is surrounded by images of all of the mechanical means by which humans have attempted to depart this earth throughout history.
Born in 1957 in Quanzhou City, Fujian Province, China, Cai moved to Shanghai in 1981 to study theater design at the Shanghai Theatre Academy. After spending nearly a decade in Tokyo (1986-95) he moved to New York City where he currently lives and works. At the close of his studies in 1985, Cai began experimenting with gunpowder. The resulting works, which he has described as "unpredictable splendor," combined his interest in chance and the physically as well as culturally charged material. Small, more personal explosions gave way to monumental events that garnered the energy and workforce of the community. Each project is site specific, calling upon the cultural and geographical history of the chosen place to inform the work.