Buffalo

Xu Bing, Ghosts Pounding the Wall, 1990–91, rice paper, ink, soil, and mixed media. Installation view, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 2006. Photo: Tom Loonan.

Xu Bing, Ghosts Pounding the Wall, 1990–91, rice paper, ink, soil, and mixed media. Installation view, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 2006. Photo: Tom Loonan.

“The Wall”

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, University at Buffalo Anderson Gallery & Art Gallery

“POOR CHINA!” It is June 2003; Venice is sweltering. A friend and I have traversed the Arsenale and now find ourselves standing before an installation of bright lights and ungainly statuary that is meant to evoke the chaotic dynamism of the postmillennial Chinese city. Despite this theme, the work feels inert—showy, but dumb. We grow restless. The aforementioned comment by my companion expresses with sad resignation the view that contemporary art in China cannot hold its own against the more sophisticated endeavors of the West. Not only can it not compete: It is worthy of our sympathy.

Buffalo, January 2006: “The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art”—a survey first presented last summer at Beijing’s Millennium Art Museum—is far more promising. The best work among the contributions of some forty-five artists is provocatively conceptual. Song Dong’s Together with Farm Workers, 2005, is

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