Beijing artist Sun Xun is a master of many skills—draftsmanship, ink painting, calligraphy, hand-drawn animation, and more. His work investigates history using an inventive personal vocabulary. This show, presented in two stages, began as an expansive display of vivid surrealist paintings, combining references from Cultural Revolution iconography to dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History. For part two, the gallery unveiled a film created from this imagery, which was taped and edited during the artist’s one-month residency on the gallery’s lower floor.
Visitors were encouraged to interact with the artist as he and two assistants worked on the film, called The Time Vivarium (2014), also the title of the show. Though totally nonlinear, it conveyed a world in which bureaucrats have heads made of stone and foxes wear megaphones as masks. The dragon at the gate of Tiananmen Square comes alive, and Red Army revolutionaries are swallowed up in a whirlwind of brushstrokes. We see how history is constructed and official accounts may contradict known truth.
Also on display were three mammoth artist’s books featuring pictures taken from newspapers, photo archives, and family albums. Painted as watercolors, the images were surrounded by fluid calligraphic lines. With each page framed in wood, it required two people to turn the pages.
A version of this story originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 76.