Made in China (and L.A.)

With a prestigious grant from the Asian Cultural Council, Hammer adjunct curator James Elaine moved to China in April 2008 to seek out emerging artists within China and throughout Asia. This blog provides a fascinating insight into Jamie’s travels and the art world in China.

Made in China (and L.A.)

Hammer Projects book on press


Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

My first trip to Hong Kong was a short one but I managed to see some interesting galleries and people while I was there. I was fortunate to arrive on an Art Sunday (1st Sunday of the month) when many galleries that are usually closed are open to the public. My first stop was Para/Site Art Space, an important non-profit venue for local and international artists. Alvaro Rodriguez from Spain is the director/curator and was showing Shahzia Sikander’s “Authority as Approximation,” a retrospective of her time based video works. This was her first solo exhibition in China. Shahzia is a friend and an artist that Annie and I showed many years ago at the Drawing Center, NY.

Gallery Exit

Alvaro Rodriguez, Director of Para Site

Alvaro graciously took me on a long walk through the Sheung Wan and Central districts of Hong Kong Island to visit some of the other area galleries and local sites; Hanart TZ Gallery, Osage Soho, Tang Contemporary, Gallery Exit, and 10 Chancery Lane where I saw a new video by Dinh Q. Le, a past member of the Hammer’s Artist Council. This new single channel 3-D animation, South China Sea Pishkun, is a computer generated work that references the horrifying events that occurred on April 30, 1975 (the day Saigon fell) as hundreds of thousands of people tried to flee Saigon from the encroaching North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong. Hundreds of helicopters were trashed at sea as there was not enough room for all of them on the waiting aircraft carriers during the massive American airlift. It is a beautiful and sad elegy to these huge insect like creatures losing their power and glory in mid air and crashing into the rolling sea. They are softly swallowed and never heard from again.

1010 International Printing

Jame Elaine arrives at the press.

The main reason I came to Hong Kong though was to meet up with Michael Lok, co-founding director of Oceanic Graphic Printing company, and Johnny Ngai, production manager, to drive me back into mainland China to nearby Huizhou, Guangdong and 1010 Printing International to begin the final phase of the production of the new Hammer Projects 10 year anniversary book. Guangdong is the southern province of China westerners call Canton. It is right next door to Hong Kong and lies within the Pearl River Delta economic zone where the Pearl River flows into the South China Sea. It is one of the leading economic regions and a major manufacturing center of China. On top of the regions leadership in advanced light technology and manufacturing, like everywhere else I have been in China, the food is out of this world.

Lunch with Michael Lok and Johnny Ngai.


Dinner in Huizhou with Michael Lok.

Dinner (pigeon)

Annie Philbin moved to Los Angeles from New York at the beginning of 1999 and I followed soon thereafter to join her at the Hammer Museum. It was in the fall of that year we began the Hammer Projects to give local, national, and international emerging and lesser- known artists opportunities to exhibit in a museum context outside of the constraints of the commercial gallery system. After 10 years and over 80 exhibitions in 4 dedicated galleries or spaces in the museum we are publishing an anniversary book that will revisit every Project and every artist we showed in the series. Included in the book will be installation images from the shows, many of which were not previously published in the Hammer Projects brochures, and the original essays written by different writers, critics, and artists, many of who were also emerging at the time.

Hammer Projects: 1999 - 2009 goes to press.

Michael Lok checks on the printing press.

Checking the prints.

I guess that it is fitting that the last Project in the book is a Chinese artist I met in Sichuan, Chen Qiulin, who’s exhibition opens September 29, and funny that I would move to China and see the Hammer Projects en masse follow (in the form of a book). The experience of being on press 10-12 hours a day for a week, seeing images of every exhibition for the past 10 years roll out before my eyes, and to see it in China, has been wonderfully and exhaustingly other-worldly. So were the late night dinners of delicious Cantonese food and cold Pearl River beer. The book will be out and available in the US sometime in early October, but you will have to come to Guangdong for the food.

Press print sheet area.

Filed under: 
Tags: China, James Elaine