Saturday, February 7, 2009

Outdoor Sculpture Gardens

We ventured off to the Shanghai Sculpture Garden, a tiny oasis from center city replete with quiet cafes and a few shards of dried out grass. One often longs for green and open spaces in this city. The sculptures are scattered throughout the garden and inside the older warehouses that have been converted into galleries. Most sculptures are modern in scope (read – have a startling resemblance to the artwork found in a kindergarten classroom) and need some sort of erudite-philosophical-exaggerated-social-commentary explanation to justify their existence. One can either read the elaborate explanations or simply stand, stare and create ones own story.

My favorite gallery had two identical 4 foot tall iron sculptures of a naked Chinese man with stereotypical and almost cartoon like features. His eyes were partially closed, his smile drunken, his head tilted towards the ground, and his body slightly bent forward as if he were bowing to someone. He was painted bright red; wink wink. It was the first thing one saw upon entering and the last thing one saw upon exiting. Honestly, I almost instinctively returned his bow when leaving.

We wandered about the few cobblestone paths and entered a café, lumbering up to the second floor on the wobbly ancient sloping staircase. Was this also meant to be an art statement?
There was no one inside save for one man seated alone. He was dressed in a colorful fashion with strands of baubles and stones strung around his neck, Indian style fringed boots, tight fitting acid-washed jeans, and a blouse with ruffled edges. He kept twirling a strand of his thick hair around his finger; flirting with the waiter it seemed. His massive mane was wildly swept to the left side of his head, as if he had sprayed lacquer as the wind had come towards him from the right. Andy laughed as he peered down at his button down plaid shirt, loafers and corduroy pants.

That evening we joined a group of friends at a bar near our home. They were celebrating a birthday in a private room on the second floor. The room was decorated in mahogany wood and leather and I felt as if I were visiting friends at their country home in the south of Spain. The group was mixed in terms of age, ethnicity, sexuality and religion, and I was introduced to a new drink called the ‘Moscow Mule.’ I remember that it was delicious but not much more of the evening.

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