January 22, 2012

Bob Keyes: Winter wonderscape of new shows

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Xiaoze Xie intended to study architecture. The uprising at Tiananmen Square in 1989 influenced him to change his mind.

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“The Metropolitan Museum of Art Library (Dürer),” 2006, oil on canvas by Xiaoze Xie, from the exhibition of his work opening this week at the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston.

Courtesy of Bates College Museum of Art

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“Mary Bok with Surely & Honey the Dogs, Camden, Maine,” 2011, from the exhibition of Tanja Alexia Hollander’s portraits of her Facebook friends, opening in February at the Portland Museum of Art.

Courtesy of Portland Museum of Art

Additional Photos Below


WHERE: Bates College Museum of Art, Olin Arts Center, 75 Russell St., Lewiston

WHEN: Through March 18. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday


INFO: bates.edu/museum

WHAT ELSE: Xiaoze Xie will discuss his work at 6 p.m. Thursday in Room 104 of the Olin Arts Center.


WHERE: Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art, 522 Congress St., Portland

WHEN: Opens Wednesday. Through April 8. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, with extended hours to 7 p.m. Thursday.


INFO: meca.edu/meca-life/ica

WHAT ELSE: An opening reception will be held 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday.


WHERE: Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square

WHEN: Feb. 4 to June 17. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday.

HOW MUCH: $12; $10 for seniors and students with ID; $6 for ages 13 to 17; free for ages 12 and younger; free for all after 5 p.m. Fridays

INFO: portlandmuseum.org

WHAT ELSE: At 6 p.m. March 8, museum director Mark Bessire and Hollander will discuss the show and her work.

He left China three years later for the United States to begin a practice in contemporary art that has placed him on the art-world fast track. This week, Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston opens "Amplified Moments: 1993-2008," an exhibition of large-scale and finely detailed paintings as well as works in other media that will be on view through March 18.

It's the latest in a series of timely exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art that Bates has hosted during the past two decades, and among a trio of contemporary art exhibitions opening in visual art spaces across southern Maine in the days and weeks ahead.

Visitors can look for a quirky new-media digital exhibition by Maine native and budding international art star Michael Bell-Smith at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art in Portland. And in February, the Portland Museum of Art opens a solo show by Maine photographer Tanja Alexia Hollander that taps into the social media and Facebook phenomena. "Tanja Alexia Hollander: Are You Really My Friend?" uses Hollander's portrait work to explore friendships in the context of social media.

First up is Xie at Bates. The Chinese-American artist, who was born in China in 1966 and now lives in California, will be at the Lewiston liberal arts college this week to meet with students and talk to the public.

"He is a very important, U.S.-based contemporary artist," said museum director Dan Mills, who was a colleague of Xie's when the two worked together at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. Xie now teaches at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

Mills curated this exhibition, which is stopping at three other museums across the country.

For eight years at Bucknell, Mills had a studio next to Xie. He saw much of the work in the Bates show when it consisted of blank canvases.

"I talked to him about his work during their creation, and I talked to him about his work when they were done," said Mills. "As a curator and as someone who was a colleague for many years, it gives me a unique insight into his work that I would like to think will benefit the audience."

Xie's paintings have received both critical acclaim and commercial success. His paintings are large and methodical. He uses imagery of newspapers and decaying books, and has said that stacks of printed pages represent both cultural memory as well as the passage of time.

Mills, who used to watch Xie paint, admires the artist's labor-intensive technique. He builds up his paintings with layers of pigments. The final result is paintings executed with near-photographic precision.

The Bates show also will include actual photographs, videos and installations.

"What ties all (my) works together is the interest in time, in memory and in history," Xie told an interviewer at the University of Oregon in November. "There's always this sense of contemplating time, the passage of time and how changes in history and politics are documented."

"I think he is a very important, almost mid-career artist," Mills said. "He is very thoughtful and very talented as an artist. Those who come to hear him talk will understand that he is incredibly smart.

"There are a lot of deep layers in his work. The beauty in his work can hold you long enough to think about some of the other philosophical issues his work addresses. But in concert with those issues, beauty is absolutely important to him. His paintings may be dealing with tough issues, but he does not give up dealing with current events for beauty." 

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Opening Wednesday at the Institute of Contemporary at Maine College of Art is an exhibit featuring the digital creations of Michael Bell-Smith.

Courtesy of Maine College of Art

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“May 23, 2003. C.T.,” 2007, ink on rice paper by Xiaoze Xie.

Courtesy of Bates College Museum of Art

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“Samantha Appleton, Washington, D.C.,” 2011, by Tanya Alexia Hollander.

Courtesy of Portland Museum of Art

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