Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Scott Norton reviews Landscape: The Virtual, The Actual, The Possible? at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
For much of art history, seventeenth-century notions of a hierarchy of genres within painting classified landscapes as inferior to history paintings, which were often filled with religious iconography and scenes from mythology. Several centuries later, some contemporary audiences continue to perceive landscapes as prosaic, formulaic, or downright boring. The curators and featured artists of the exhibition Landscape: The Virtual, The Actual, The Possible? suggest that we as a civilization have moved beyond the bounds of this ancient genre, and quite possibly beyond the point of no return as a planet facing a global climate crisis.
The configuration of the gallery is unique. It opens and unfolds like a Chinese scholar’s garden. Liang Shuo’s Fit #9 (2010), a playful assemblage of found toys, tools, and tree branches, seems to crawl down the entrance wall like a garden vine. Like the curated space it inhabits, Liang’s piece is a collection of objects without any seemingly rational relationship existing in forced harmony, inorganic posing as organic. Through our rationalization of its existence, perhaps as commentary on the ubiquity of human-made ephemera now found in nature, Fit #9 becomes a part of the created scenery. Next to the piece, a slender window gives the visitor only a peek of what’s to come ahead. The curved path of the gallery’s hall forms the side of a square encompassing a circle, which is coincidentally a Chinese visual metaphor for heaven and earth, and a motif often present in Chinese gardens.