I had visions of China as I strolled through Mahjong, the exhibit of contemporary Chinese art currently on display at the Berkeley Art Museum. Maybe even visions of Chinatown, of commodities bought and sold. Personally I was relieved. I did my time with Chinese art chaperoned by my parents. The natural shanshui landscapes and watercolors were a yawner. The historical and spiritual implications were so vast, I just couldn’t get into it. But here at Mahjong was a consumer vocabulary I could understand. There were fun clothes and bright constructivist posters and plastic tchotchkes, all sensationally over-obvious in their message. I wanted to buy, buy, buy!
Then I began to get bored. And a little panicky. That spiky-haired, black-shirted Chinese museum security guard who busted me taking pictures didn’t help matters. I suspected Triad ties. So I escaped to the Urban Outfitters next door for some retail therapy. As I chilled out on the Anywhere Sofa ($325), under a speaker blaring rap as if it were nationalist slogans, I realized that the wares that surrounded me were all made in China. I had left the Mahjong exhibit, only to find myself in its American mirror image. Heck, the museum and Urban Outfitters even sport the same warehouse chic. And all I could think was, ’Wow, these faux vintage tees and graphic bedspreads would look great with Chanel No. 5 by Wang Guanyi or Mao/Marilyn by Yu Yuhan printed on them.’
The show is up until Jan. 4th, 2009.
Click on images to supersize. More after the jump.