H&R Block Artspace to present The Xijing Men

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Jan. 21, 2013) — The H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute and the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in Lawrence are pleased to present the inaugural North American exhibition by the internationally renowned Xijing Men: Tsuyoshi Ozawa of Japan, Chen Shaoxiong of China and Gimhongsok of Korea. The exhibition opens with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 1 at the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, 16 E. 43rd St. The Artspace is hosting the Xijing Men in partnership with The Spencer Museum.

Members of the collaborative will arrive Jan. 22 in Kansas City for a 10-day residency to create and install a new work at the Artspace in time for the exhibition opening. The exhibition, which continues through April 2, will include a survey of past work by the Xijing Men, including video, drawings and objects culled from four of the five “chapters” the artists envisioned for the duration of their collaboration.

The night before the exhibition opens, the artists will deliver a public presentation at 7 p.m. Jan. 31 at KCAI as part of the college’s Current Perspectives lecture series. Their presentation will take place in Epperson Auditorium, which is located in Vanderslice Hall on the KCAI campus, 4415 Warwick Blvd. An accompanying public program, taking the guise of a conference, is planned onsite at the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence (time and date to be announced). A full-color exhibition catalogue featuring essays and interviews detailing new and past work will be published as part of the exhibition.

The Xijing Men hail, conceptually, from the fictitious city of Xijing, an imagined political entity in East Asia. The term “Xijing” is composed of Chinese characters meaning “western capital” (the city’s name would be “saiky?” in Japanese and “suhkyung” in Korean). The word play has roots in the names of real cities: Beijing (“northern capital”), Nanjing (“southern capital”) and Tokyo, known in Chinese as Donjing (“eastern capital”).

Since forming in 2006, the Xijing Men have staged scenarios drawing heavily on absurdity, satire, sarcasm and humor. Tsuyoshi Ozawa (Japan) and Chen Shaoxiong (China) originally began communicating via a visual correspondence meant to bridge the linguistic and geographic divide between their two countries; this was at a low point in China-Japan relations characterized by anti-Japanese demonstrations in China. When the two were invited to participate in the exhibition “All About Laughter: Humor in Contemporary Art” at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, they displayed their work alongside that of Gimhongsok (Korea). Noticing a resonance between their work and Gimhongsok’s, they asked him to join them in forming a collaboration spanning three Asian states.

The collaboration, as the artists have envisioned it, will consist of five chapters, four of which have been completed: (1) “Do You Know Xijing?” (2) “This is Xijing” (3) “Welcome to Xijing” (4) “I Love Xijing.” The fifth chapter, “Goodbye Xijing,” eventually will conclude their project.

These chapters establish the history, mythology and cultural identity of Xijing. At the same time, by attributing these qualities to a non-existent political entity, the Xijing Men poke holes in these very concepts, deflating their power. Meanwhile, mock cultural events have provided opportunities for antic-driven commentary, always referencing specific geopolitical spectacles. Notably, an Olympics spectacle hosted by the fictitious city of Xijing in 2008 (competitions included sleep marathons and cigarette-smoking relays) restored to the sports arena a sense of levity and play that was markedly absent from the actual Olympics, which took place in Beijing at the same time.

The Xijing Men have exhibited their work at museums and international exhibitions throughout Asia and Europe, including Gwangju Biennale 2012, Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation in Venice 2011, the 1st Aichi Triennial 2010, Media City Seoul 2010, the 10th Lyon Biennale 2009, the 4th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 2009, Tate Liverpool 2009, 3rd Nanjing Triennial 2008 and Platform Seoul 2008.

This exhibition is generously funded by the Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, Kansas City, Mo., the William T. Kemper Foundation, Kansas City, Mo., the Japan Foundation, New York, and the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

About the H&R Block Artspace

Dedicated to artists, art and ideas since 1999, the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute presents quality exhibitions of contemporary art and a range of public programs for a growing audience of students, educators, artists, arts enthusiasts and the general public. The Artspace is located at 16 E. 43rd St., one block east of Main Street. Parking is available at 4218 Walnut St., just north of The Warehouse, home of KCAI’s fiber program. Public hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. For more information about upcoming public programs, including The Xijing Men lecture at 7 p.m. Jan. 31, visit the Artspace at www.kcai.edu/artspace or call 816-561-5563.

About the Kansas City Art Institute

The Kansas City Art Institute is a private, independent four-year college of art and design awarding the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with majors in animation, art history, ceramics, digital filmmaking, digital media, fiber, graphic design, illustration, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and studio art with an emphasis on creative writing. The college also offers certificate programs in Community Arts and Service Learning and in Asian Studies for students enrolled in the B.F.A. program. KCAI hosts “Current Perspectives,” a free public lecture series; free exhibitions at the H&R Block Artspace gallery; and evening, weekend and summer classes in art, design, multimedia studies and desktop publishing for children, youth and adults. Founded in 1885, KCAI is Kansas City’s oldest arts organization. For more information, visit KCAI on the Web at www.kcai.edu.

About the Spencer Museum of Art

The Spencer Museum of Art sustains a culturally diverse collection of art, encouraging interdisciplinary exploration at the intersection of art, ideas, and experience. The museum, located on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, houses an internationally-known collection that is deep and diverse, with artworks and artifacts representing all media. Areas of special strength include medieval panel painting and religious sculpture; the Kress Study Collection of early modern Italian painting; 19th century American art and material culture; old master prints; photography; European, East Asian and Indian textiles; American Indian pottery, beadwork and jewelry; African sculpture; Japanese Edo-period prints; and 20th century Chinese painting. For more information, visit www.spencerart.ku.edu.

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For more information, contact Anne Canfield, KCAI, at 816-802-3426 or acanfield@kcai.edu, or Beverly Ahern, H&R Block Artspace, at 816-802-3571 or bahern@kcai.edu

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