At the Rubell Family Collection on December 4th, 2013, Chinese artist Zhu Jinshi exhibited “Boat,” an installation measuring 40 x 20 x 20 feet. The hands that put Jinshi’s creation to life were those of FIU students, from Bill Burke, Professor’s Master of Fine Arts class and from Dr. Lidu Yi, Assistant Professor’s Contemporary Chinese Art class. Students installed “Boat” from scratch, folding traditional Chinese Xuan Zhi (rice paper) and suspending each piece on the bamboo poles of the installation, which hung from cotton thread.
The artist Zhu Jinshi was born in 1954 in Beijing. Jinshi was a part of the Stars group exhibition in 1970s China, a collective known for its works that went against mainstream, aesthetic conventions. Although he usually creates abstract paintings, Jinshi has worked with installation, performance, video, and photographic art. He has been featured in prominent exhibitions like the China Avant-garde Art exhibition (1993) in Berlin and Mind Space – Maximalism (2012) at the University of Pittsburgh and in New York.
“It was great to participate in this important event for such a prestigious Miami art institution,” said Nick Gilmore, MFA candidate. “[E]xperiencing the inner workings of the Rubell Family Collection was valuable in and of itself and also in terms of establishing important contacts [within] the local community.”
Professor Bill Burke explained the process of installing Jinshi’s “Boat.” He said, “The students had a hands-on, working dialogue with [the five installers from China constructing] the ‘Boat’ installation exhibited in…28 Chinese. This piece is one of the works [that are] the culmination of the Rubell Family Collection’s six research trips to China between 2001 and 2012, [in which] they visited one-hundred artists’ studios in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Xi’an and acquired artwork from twenty-eight artists.”
Like Professor Burke, Dr. Lidu Yi was proud to provide her students with such an opportunity at the Rubell Family Collection. “The best and most effective way to learn visual art is to see it first hand,” she said, “to connect it with your eyes, ears, nose and senses, to feel it, smell it and lose oneself in it. The Rubell Family Collection provided a platform for a stimulating learning experience. Students were able to learn [about] contemporary Chinese art right here in Miami, first-hand, and to meet the artists during Art Basel! And they also had the opportunity to be part of the art-making! ‘This is phenomenal and incredible, Professor,’ students said to me while making the ‘Boat.’” Dr. Yi will publish two articles about this experience with the Rubell Family Collection: “Qi of the Rubells – A Decade of Journeying to China” and a dialogue with a Chinese artist entitled “Lan Zhenghui: Found Myself Splashing Ink.” Lan Zhenghui’s work is on display on the second floor of the Rubell Family Collection.
Founder Mera Rubell was glad to have collaborated with FIU Art + Art History. She said, “It was an incredible experience to collaborate with these two fantastic professors…and their deeply committed students who were ready to engage and dig into the exhibition through research and actively participating in the installation. We’re thrilled that these FIU students were able to help transform these common, timeless materials of paper, bamboo and string into something monumental[,] and the students all took part in cultural diplomacy while working with the Chinese studio assistants and sharing home cooked meals in the sculpture garden….We look forward to many more successful collaborations with FIU’s Art + Art History [program].”
The students who assisted in the installation of “Boats” by Zhu Jinshi are listed below.
Andrew Horton, Gardner Cole Miller, Ivan Santiago, Joe Locke, Kristin O’Neil, Nick Gilmore, Yasmin Khalaf, Lorna Ruth Galloway
Contemporary Chinese Art Students
Nathalie Alfonso, Annie Gustafsson, Renier Casanova, Maria Galeano, Angie Montalvo, Vera Piegas Saeme, Roderick Smith, Ashlye Valines, Grace Villalobos, JeanCarlos Fernandez, Lissette Martinez, Holly Rodriguez, Alexandra Spacagna