Blowing Things Up at MOCA

Hosted by

My radio pal Lisa Napoli made it down to MOCA last night to watch the extraordinary Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang explode gunpowder over a canvas stencil of some 11 by 39 feet to create a drawing titled "Zero Gravity." The press release says that it "will portray mankind's undying fantasy to defy gravity, and the unsuccessful challenges by naïve measures since antiquity." Lisa says, simply, that it blew her mind and she wanted to talk about it right away. That way, listeners can get excited about attending the public fireworks event, Mystic Circle, at MOCA at 7:30pm on April 7.

By coincidence, a few weeks ago, I saw the artist's exhibition "Saraab in Doha, Qatar at Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art. There was a gorgeous gunpowder drawing of his version of the Silk Road leading from his native Quanzhuo to Doha. Quanzhou was one of the largest seaports in the 14th century and Arabs traveled there regularly. His show at Mathaf included enormous boulders brought from Quanzhou and carved with epitaphs written for Arabs who were buried in the Muslim cemetaries there. Since one of the common verses was "whoever dies as a foreigner dies a martyr," he had created a "millennial homecoming" for them. I so enjoyed this thoughtful exhibition, full of unexpected alliances and observations. Now I look forward to the show at MOCA.

Cai Guo-Qiang initially trained in stage design in Shanghai, then lived in Japan from 1986 to 1995. He now lives in New York and is something of an international superstar in contemporary art. In 2008, he has given a retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and he managed the special effects of the Beijing Olympics. Yet, his demeanor remains humble. The Eastern philosophies that underlie his work stem from strong personal beliefs. Sky Ladder, the exhibition of drawings, videos and an installation, will continue at MOCA through July 30. The exhibit was organized by MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch and curator Rebecca Morse.