The Frye Art Museum in Seattle is presently host to two very different kinds of art exhibitions. Take Home and Make Real the Priceless in Your Heart by Liu Ding is a one of a kind exhibition. Rather than showcasing finished works of art, this novel exhibition shows works in progress as it were. Produced by artists from Beijing, the artifacts are factory commissioned reproductions stalled midway during their production. In this sense, it is a unique exhibition, offering the viewer a one-of-a-kind experience. The mastermind behind this exhibition is Liu Ding, who
“employs the economic model of a shop as a platform for discussion on the creation of value in the art world…Through different approaches that include product pricing, promotion, marketing, and circulation, Lui seeks to investigate, understand and discuss value – particularly the complex characteristics of value in art – as well as the rules, mechanisms, and politics behind the creation of value.” (introduction to Liu Ding’s Store)
It is in light of this intellectual context that Liu Ding’s presentation will have to be viewed. And this politico-economic context adds richness and meaning to what would otherwise be dull, unimpressive works. For example, a prominent painting in this exhibition is that of a huge python whose body is not yet fully painted. By showing only the head and tail of the giant snake, the painter is prompting the viewer’s imagination to fill in the space. This feature opens up the scope for interpretation as well. Moreover, this artistic angle underscores the role of synthetic imagination in the discourse on aesthetics. Coming to the politico-economic angle, the exhibition shows how method, planning, schedule and intermediary stages supplement the production of works of art – a fact that is often shadowed by the beauty of the finished product. Another painting under the theme of ‘unfinished paintings’ is the Die Svende, which is an elaborately decorated frame enclosing nothing. Far from the conventional, Liu Ding’s exhibition can prove to be either thought provoking or disappointing, based on the taste, refinement and patience shown by the viewer.
Ties That Bind: American Artists in Europe is another exhibition in the Frye Art Museum. This exhibition, though, is quite conventional, in that, it showcases portraits and landscapes representing classical styles that evolved in 18th and 19th century Europe. When the dust settled after the end of the Civil War in 1865, many American artists ventured across the Atlantic to learn, assimilate and master the flourishing artistic culture in Continental Europe. Europe at the time was witnessing a peaking of artistic, cultural and intellectual expression, and American artists sought the excitement and stimulus of such an atmosphere. The result is a whole era of artistic production that adapted European techniques and traditions to American talents.