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Monday, June 18, 2018

Liu Bolin

Liu Bolin visits the cereal aisle.
No doubt there have often been times when we've all endured some awkward or embarrassing situation in which we'd like to simply disappear. As a child my vivid imagination and I liked to pretend I could, in fact do just that (a feat even my hero, Superman, couldn't do). Star Trek once built an entire movie on the premise that a hijacked Klingon ship could use a Romulan cloaking device to make itself invisible while visiting Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. During their visit to the 20th century, Captain Kirk, Bones, Spock, and Scotty took it upon themselves to hijack a whale in order to save Earth (no kidding, that was the plot). More recently Harry Potter came by a similar "cloak" to cover himself in order to achieve the same aim. The Chinese artist Liu Bolin doesn't have to go to the movies to become invisible. He simply disappears into the background.
Bolin must remain very still as he gets painted. The process can take up to 10 hours at a time.
Bolin has an amazing talent. He can blend into any surroundings he chooses, making himself, or his subjects, practically undetectable to the human eye. Bolin, sometimes referred to as the "Human Chameleon", decorates the body and clothes with color, painting himself and his subjects into the surroundings, making them almost imperceptible at first glance. He sees his work as a type of political protest, and a way of hiding from the authorities. Above, Bolin is being painted by his assistants to match the wall of an old temple in central Beijing.
Liu Bolin: the painted and the painter.
Liu Bolin is an artist born in 1973 in China's Shandong province. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Shandong College of Arts in 1995 and his Master of Fine Arts from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 2001. His work has been exhibited in museums around the world. Bolin's most popular works are from his "Hiding in the City" series; photographic works that began as performance art in 2005. His work can be seen in his book Liu Bolin: The Invisible Man. Bolin most recent works can be found in the Klein Sun Gallery.
Bolin, seen or not seen in a London metro station (two upper images), spends uncounted hours preparing for his images.
Bolin is interested in the relationship between objects and the people who use them. Some of his pieces are more intricate than others. Above (third image), Bolin stands in front of the Hollywood sign in California. Graffiti and street art play an important role in Bolin's work. Above (fourth image), he is in front of Queens' famous graffiti mecca, 5 Points, which has unfortunately since been knocked down.
Some of Bolin's painted figures take on a sort of "ghostly" appearance as if the subject is only partially visible.
In many ways, Bolin's art is akin to that of the "fool-the-eye" street artists working in various media. That is to say, his art demands the use of carefully staged photography in order to be effective. If the camera is moved only a few degrees right or left of center, the illusion is quickly lost. Thus Bolin's paintings, and that of all sidewalk illusionist art, can only be classed as "temporary" art with photography the one and only means of preserving it. Thus, the photo becomes the work of art, with the painted Bolin and his background, merely the content.
Sometimes, as in the upper three images, the non-representational aspects of Bolin's chosen backgrounds work to confuse the eye and heighten his invisibility.
In general, the more highly complex the background, the more effective become the photographic image. Although most of Bolin's works fall into the realm of realism, he does not reject abstract expressionist images as seen above in his tribute to Jackson Pollock. Liu Bolin belongs to the generation that came of age in the early 1990s, when China emerged from the rubble of the Cultural Revolution to enjoy rapid economic growth and relative political stability. He followed up his Beijing series of "Hiding in the City" with derivative series in Venice, Milan, Rome, Pompeii, Verona, and New York City. Following the method of painting himself into the cityscapes, Liu chose Italy for its significance within the Western art tradition and New York City for the potency of the underlying conflicts between humans and the objects they create.


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