In 2009, Meulensteen presented Animals, the first US gallery exhibition for Beijing-based artist and filmmaker Sun Xun (born 1980 in Fuxin, Liaoning Province). The exhibition will open on Saturday, November 7 and run through January 30. There will be an opening reception on November 7 from 6:00––8:00pm; the artist will be in attendance. Animals will feature new work, including a new film animation, drawings, light boxes, and installations with drawings done by the artist directly on the wall. Sun Xun's animations are made up of thousands of meticulously drawn images in a variety of media, often encompassing text and images from world history, politics, the natural sciences, and his own personal iconography. By drawing from strategies used in politcal cartoons, theatre, and educational films, Sun questions how history is told, mythologized, and propagated. He is interested in the surfaces of the stories we tell about our collective pasts, as well the ways in which those stories are manipulated and corrupted by power or simply the passage of time. His work can be seen as a response to the continuously tulmutuous development of Chinese culture, but also as a more universal critique of historical posturing and the implementation of absolute truths. 'People's Republic of Zoo,' the new animation on view, takes its inspiration from George Orwell's Animal Farm. At once a critique and a celebration of political allegory, as well as an exploration of myriad animal forms and the equally numerous ways in which humans have represented them, the animation was developed in part during a residency at the University of Essex. Many of its frames are made up of countless ink drawings on rice paper, and add a lively bestiary to the set of recurring characters and symbols in Sun Xun's work, which include magicians, maps, mosquitoes, and old machines. The exhibition reveals the painstaking process by which Sun Xun creates his animations: some are produced in gallery spaces while the artist is in residence, drawing on the wall; and some are produced in cooperation with the 16- member, Beijing-based Pi Animation studio which Sun Xun founded and directs. This process is documented in the many drawings, sketchbook installations, cut-paper works, and lightboxes that feature the characters and figures from 'People's Republic of Zoo.' Each of these works functions as both an independent artwork and as a part of the larger total work that is the animation. For instance, by affixing ink-on-rice paper drawings from the animation to the lightboxes, Sun Xun creates wall-based works that recall the light tables used in the animation process. Though Sun Xun's imagery reverberates with allusions to 20th century history and its portrayal in the media and the public imagination (he himself is an avid collector of old newspapers), it also stands on its own for its formal beauty. His animations are above all else poetic sequences in which the menacing and the lyrical desolve into one another, and they draw from the legacies of both Chinese and Western drawing. That he chooses to create the animations by hand, instead of using the computer, speaks to his interest in maintaining a connection to the past while he forges a new vision of history for the future. In connection with this exhibition, on Thursday, November 12 the China Institute in New York will host a conversation between Sun Xun and Bérénice Reynaud, co-curator co-curator of the film and video series at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in Los Angeles and lecturer of film history, theory and criticism in the School of Critical Studies and the School of Film/Video at the California Institute of the Arts. For further information please contact the gallery or visit the China Institute's website at www.chinainstitute.org. Sun Xun was recently the subject of one-person project exhibitions at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2008); The Drawing Center, New York (2009); and, with Shazia Sikander, at the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC (2009). In October of this year programs devoted to his work will be shown at REDCAT, Los Angeles and the Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, and the Sackler Gallery. Sun's work has been shown in numerous exhibitions and film festivals in Europe and Asia. He currently lives and works in Beijing, where he directs the Pi Animation Studio.
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