What is time and what is space? What is past and what is present? Those are just some of the concepts tackled by influential Chinese avant-garde artist Wang Jianwei, in his first-ever solo exhibition in North America.
At first glance, this painting, in four parts, appears straightforward.
But upon closer inspection, the panels -- adapted from a video scene by Beijing-based artist Wang Jianwei -- are like overlapping stills from a movie sequence.
"A still image from a video becomes a still image from a painting that is actually moving through these different iteration. And what we then see, as well, is that each of the figures are repeated in the painting. So the lady on the right side of the left panel, she is being reiterated in the next panel. So we actually are seeing the stage and the scene of the painting unfold," says Thomas Berghuis, Guggenheim museum curator.
Born in 1958 in China's western Sichuan Province, Wang Jianwei is one of the country’s leading artists of the reform-era avant-garde movements.
"He represents a particular intellect so a lot of people get to think about the meaning of contemporary art through his work," Berghuis says.
In focus are the relationships between space and time, and the contrasts between realism and abstract, such as this magnified cell structure.
Apart from abstract hints at biology there’s also subtle allusion to physics such as, in the flow of the presentation, as well as the use of shadow and texture to highlight the relationship between time and space. But ultimately it’s the artist's intention for viewers to experience these perspectives from their own unique points of view. His first foray into the U-S art scene has been well-received, says the exhibit curator Thomas Berghuis.
"The other response, I must say -- which I pride this exhibition on as well -- is that some of the younger visitors they say his work is just very cool," Berghuis says.
And, in an art market where artists vie for attention, this is quite an endorsement.