Lin Tianmiao @ Asia Society, New York

Leading Chinese contemporary artist Lin Tianmiao is having her first major solo exhibition in the US. Boung Unbound, at the Asia Society, surveys her work since 1995, highlighting her remarkably consistent focus on the human form embodied in her work.

Here? Or There?, 2002

Many of the works in the exhibition have never been seen outside of China and several are new works on view for the first time.

Here? or There? 2002

The exhibition—which is organized chronologically—takes its title from one of Lin’s early installations, originally shown at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts Gallery. For Bound and Unbound (1997), Lin carefully wound unbleached white cotton thread around nearly 800 household objects. The installation was unusual for its time in that it incorporated a video element: a hand cutting threads with scissors was projected onto a screen made of thread. The work is typical of many of her installations: large in scale and incorporating thread, sculpture, video and multimedia.

FOCUS, 2001

Beginning in 2000, Lin began to use images of her face and body in her work. One of her best-known series of works is Focus, in which black and white images of herself, her son and many others are printed on canvas then reinterpreted by using various sewing, embroidery and thread winding techniques. These portraits— including her self-portrait, which is on view in the exhibition— evolved into full figure images, then into an installation of three dimensional figures created for the Shanghai Biennale in 2002.

Here? Or There?, 2002

Here? Or There?, which is also on view in the exhibition, comprises nine figures and six video projections. The figures are dressed in manifestations of all of Lin’s embroidery and thread winding techniques. The “costumes” provide us with a new understanding of the human body beyond our daily experience. They blur the boundaries between our emotional and physical presence, casting doubt on the meaning of our own existence.

Following Here? Or There? Lin began creating works that depicted the body more explicitly, exploring the conflicts that occur between individual bodies and the community. Endless (2004), includes three elderly male figures with pink satin stretched across their stooped, gaunt bodies. They stand around a pool of pink thread.

Endless, 2004

Lin’s most recent works use bones, which the artist calls “the only perfect object left in the world.” She states: “Bones do not have the difference of hierarchy, culture, classes, politics and social property between them. I use them causally to transform, continue or reconnect with my artistic imagination.” She adds, “They are also another way that I incorporate my body into my art.”