This weekend will be a very bright one for the art world in Downtown Los Angeles, with Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang in town for the opening of his first solo museum exhibition on the West Coast. The artist is known for his projects using explosions and gunpowder, and “Cai Guo-Qiang: Sky Ladder” at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA will not disappoint. The show features three gunpowder paintings commissioned for MOCA, a large hanging installation and, the main event this Saturday: Mystery Circle: Explosion Project for MOCA, Los Angeles, an explosion scheduled to take place along the exterior wall of the museum facing Temple and Alameda. We were lucky enough to check out the show installation this week – so here’s a preview of what’s to come.
Chaos in Nature, above, is one of the three gunpowder paintings on display in “Cai Guo-Qiang: Sky Ladder.” Gunpowder on canvas, the piece measures in at an impressive 134 x 560 inches — and it’s not even the biggest of the three. It, along with Desire for Zero Gravity and Childhood Spaceship (gunpowder on paper) was commissioned for MOCA and completed during the first week of March, with the help of community volunteers. The pieces are made by sprinkling gunpowder on top of a canvas, swirling it with a long stick and covering finally, covering it with stencils and cardboard, and igniting it. Chaos in Nature uses these gunpowder explosions to depict natural disasters: a tornado, lightening, a volcano, a hurricane and a tsunami.
Cai was honored with a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2008, and collaborated with GAP for their artist edition t-shirts that same year – you may recognize the patterns in the gunpowder paintings from seeing this t-shirt in malls across America a few years ago.
Between the gunpowder paintings at MOCA is a large sculptural installation suspended from the ceiling, recreating crop circles found around the world. The piece is made from two million reeds harvested from Cai’s hometown in the Fujian Province of China – each reed has been individually attached and painstakingly bent to recreate these crop circles. This piece was not yet finished when we saw the show yesterday – the red tags hanging from the reeds were used to mark crop circles would be located when the platform first arrived at MOCA. By tomorrow evening, the red tags will be gone and the crop circles will be completed, giving the viewer an odd sensation of looking up to look down on the Earth’s wheat fields.
What can you expect from the explosion tomorrow evening? According to MOCA’s website, “pyrotechnic flying saucers, burning crop circles, and an alien god.” Sounds pretty cool to us. If you’re planning on attending the event tomorrow night, the explosion will take place at 7:30, but be sure to arrive by 6:45, as MOCA is expecting large crowds for this event, and they’ll stop admitting visitors to the viewing area by 7:15.
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA is located at 152 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles, 90013. They open Thursday-Monday at 11AM. Cai Guo-Qiang : Sky Ladder will be on view through July 30.