Monday, July 06, 2015

Bronze Chinese Zodiac Heads

We saw the Bronze Chinese Zodiac Heads on display at the Portland Art Museum over the weekend.

I liked the heads.  The boar had interesting eyes; the eyelids or some reflection from the rest of the head made it look like the sculpture had irises.  The dragon head looked the most traditional.  The roster head looked the most realistic.   The snake looked very cool and also like something you'd see in a science fiction show with reptilian aliens.  I liked the ram's curling horns.  I'd say I didn't have a favorite, although I liked the snake, the roster, the ram more than the others because they looked the happiest and friendliest; the horse was well done, but looked anxious.

These were reproductions of heads that existed in 1700 in China.  They'd been designed for a palace courtyard fountain by a Frenchman; the prints of what they originally looked liked was very Versailles.  The palace where they'd been part of a fountain was looted a long time ago, and the original heads have appeared on auction.

I learned that the twelve Chinese Zodiac signs were assigned hours over a twenty-four hour period.  The dragon has the hours 7 AM to 9 AM, the tiger 3 AM to 5 AM, and the roster 5 PM to 7 PM (additionally the cardinal direction of west).   The original heads were on human bodies, and sprayed water during their assigned hours.

There was a short video about the artist, Ai Weiwwi.  I didn't remember until I saw it in the video that he had bought a Ming vase and photographed himself breaking it.  The artist had a convoluted statement about art and commodities and real art and reproductions and market value, which strayed into the "It's worse than that, it's art, Jim!" language Tina Howe used in her play, "Museum."

What I got out of the display was that he was good at his craft, and the heads were cool.  








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