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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
Matter & Spirit-591-Edit.jpg

Matter + Spirit: a Chinese/American exhibition

Exhibit combines the cultures of both nations

What is the place of the spiritual in contemporary life, particularly in highly materialistic—and increasingly secular—cultures, like the US and China? 

Rachel Smith, Taylor professor of art Gilkison chair, said, “This is the central question of Matter + Spirit: A Chinese/American Exhibition, a collection of over 50 works of art in a variety of media and styles by 25 Chinese and American artists that engage the great diversity of issues it raises and a range of perspectives on them.”

The exhibition opens Nov. 4 and continues through Dec. 12, 2022, in the Metcalf Gallery, Modelle Metcalf Visual Arts Center at Taylor University.

Smith, who also serves as the curator and project director, said the exhibit is the product of a gathering of North American art professors with their Chinese counterparts in June 2018 in China. The event was sponsored by the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity. 

While visiting artists’ enclaves and cultural sites in Beijing, Nanjing, and Shanghai, they considered issues of art, contemporary society, spirituality, and their role as culture makers, critics and seers, she said.

“The works you see in this exhibition represent this encounter, its conversations, and what was summoned by the artists’ interactions—with China, with the arts scene there, and with each other,” Smith said.

It is hardly necessary to explain the interest in doing a project in China, the Taylor art professor explained.

“Chinese contemporary art has swept onto the international art scene and is, without question, a leading cultural force,” Smith said. “As late as 1990 there were no private art galleries in Beijing. But 20 years later there were 300 galleries in the capital, energized by the social space that opened up in Chinese society between the state and the market. 

“These forerunners focused on the effects of rapid social change and cultural globalization in China, laying the foundation for the vital and rapidly evolving cultural landscape we see today.”

Smith invited everyone to come and see what she called” this remarkable body of art that reflects on the perennial tensions between the material and the spiritual in human life and in society.”

Upcoming related special events:

Wednesday November 9: 

Special Chapel Speaker Dr. Fenggang Yang, sociologist and director of the Center for Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University

Friday November 11: 

Artist Panel: Friday November 11 @ 6:00pm in Butz-Carruth Recital Hall

Reception immediately following in the Metcalf Gallery

Gallery tours or visits for classes and other groups for the duration of the exhibition. 

Art Faculty Rachel Smith (exhibition curator and project director) and Laura Stevenson (exhibition artist) are available for tours or to guide engagement.

Exhibition description: What is the place of the spirit in increasingly materialist societies like China and the US? This is the central question of this exhibition, a collection of more than 50 artworks by 25 Chinese and North American artists who gathered in China in 2018 to engage the wide-reaching issues it raises and a range of perspectives on them.

Themes include: prosperity and the “spiritual void”; the revival of religion and spirituality in China; the Chinese Church and Christian faith; relationship; family; the role of religion and government; technology; censorship; religious freedom; identity, the individual, and society.