The Utah Museum of Fine Arts has officially brought in their 14th artist as part of their “salt” series of contemporary art. This new exhibit, “salt 14,” highlights the work of Yang Yongliang. The artist’s profile has been growing, especially in the United States, rather recently. Coming from China, Yongliang uses his skill of Chinese calligraphy and Shan Shui painting and interweaves it with current technology, including photo and video. All of these aspects combine to create many stunning masterpieces. These masterpieces are then illuminated, creating a three-dimensional feel.
When learning more about this exhibit and its significance, I had the wonderful opportunity to learn from Whitney Tassie. Tassie is a senior curator of modern art at the UMFA. When discussing the style Yongliang uses in his work, she explained it has “the use of new technology to show old technology.” When looking at the artwork, it gives a weird mix of your mind wanting to see Shan Shui painting, but rather, you see layered photographs illuminated with light. These create what feels like one deep and confusing photo.
Tassie went on to explain how Yongliang is “classically trained,” and he uses his classical training to create collaged photos of Chinese mountain tops superimposed over urban landscapes. As opposed to many classic Chinese paintings, this modern art gives a “mix of urban culture and nature.” Yonglian gives what Tassie called a “change of emphasis.” As opposed to focusing the art on nature with the hint of man’s existence, the art focuses on man and the changes man brings, and has nature merely as the suggestion. It makes you recognize the “global world” as you have to decipher the “fact versus fiction.”
Like most art, especially contemporary art, many people have different reactions. Art tends to meet you where you are at, and more often than not, you will have a different take away from the person next to you. With “salt 14″ in particular, Tassie went even further into the thought of differing artistic preferences, saying “people relate differently to photography.” Essentially, “everyone is a photographer” in this day and age. There is a constant question about whether photography is really art, or if it’s merely an applied use of technology. However, I must say, if you go witness the “salt 14″ exhibit at the UMFA, you will easily be able to respect the photography and acknowledge how much it belongs in the UMFA.
Even with everyone’s varying opinions, an artist always has a goal in mind about what their artwork means. While I was unable to interview Yongliang at the time of the gallery opening, he will be hosting an artist talk at the UMFA Wednesday, April 3, at 7:00 p.m. in the UMFA Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium. Admission is free, and his artistic process will be explained alongside a film screening. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to go listen to an artist explain their work.
I highly recommend taking the time out of your day to head over to the UMFA and experience this exhibit, as well as many others. “salt 14″ opened on Oct. 26 and is here until June 2. Admission to the museum is free with your student ID, and there is free parking for the museum.