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The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China

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Materials like plastic, wood, hair and gunpowder factor into the premiere of this traveling exhibition. Exhibition organizer Wu Hung, of the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum, has categorized the creators at the center of The Allure of Matter as “material artists,” and, well, that’s a pretty to-the-point description. The 21 featured artists all employ unconventional materials to create their works (each installation includes photo documentation of the piece’s construction), like Zhang Huan’s use of temple incense ash to form a landscape of field workers or Wang Jin’s imperial robes made from PVC. But the use of materials goes beyond aesthetics and engages with China’s extreme economic changes, history of art-making and government censorship.

The unconventional material choices lead to some close-up surprises: Gu Wenda’s rainbow, tent-like United Nations: American Code is no Insta backdrop, but rather a symbol of international tolerance made entirely of strands and braids of human and synthetic hair, and Xu Bing’s floor-covering 1st Class looks just like a massive tiger rug, but is in fact made of half a million loosely positioned cigarettes. You can even smell the tobacco.

Now through Jan 5, 2020

General admission $25; LA County residents $20. Free for residents after 3 pm Monday through Friday.