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What artists are doing now. The American artist Christine Wang in San Francisco

Elīna Ije

21.04.2020

An inspiration and mutual solidarity project for the creative industries

In the current situation, clearly our top priority is to take care of our families, friends and fellow citizens. Nevertheless, while public life is paralyzed and museums, galleries and cultural institutions are closed, in many of us neither the urge to work nor the creative spark have disappeared. In fact, quite the opposite is happening in what is turning out to be a time that befits self-reflection and the generation of new ideas for the future. Although we are at home and self-isolating, we all – artists, creatives and Arterritory.com – continue to work, think and feel. As a sort of gesture of inspiration and ‘remote’ mutual solidarity, we have launched the project titled What Artists Are Doing Now, with the aim of showing and affirming that neither life nor creative energy are coming to a stop during this crisis. We have invited artists from all over the world to send us a short video or photo story illustrating what they are doing, what they are thinking, and how they are feeling during this time of crisis and self-isolation. All artist stories will be published on Arterritory.com and on our Instagram and Facebook accounts. We at Arterritory.com are convinced that creativity and positive emotions are good for the immune system and just might help us better navigate through these difficult times.

From her studio in San Francisco, American artist Christine Wang answers a short questionnaire by Arterritory.com:

Are you working on any projects right now in your studio? If so, could you briefly describe them?

Currently I am making paintings for Galerie Nagel Draxler. They are a series of paintings based on memes. The title of the series is Meme Girl, Girl Meme. They all involve a female-gendered voice with images that are either clearly feminine or sometimes not clearly feminine. For example, in one painting a man looks at a selection of doughnuts. The man is labeled ‘Me’ and the doughnuts are labeled ‘Netflix’, ‘cry’, ‘depression nap’, ‘stare out of window’, ‘text ex’, ‘pizza’, and ‘feel gross’. These are things that I associate with a depressed girl. Yet the man is wearing a suit and tie. I am also interested in non-female institutions or people being portrayed as female. I am working on a painting of a blonde incorrectly adding 248 and 208. The caption reads: ‘U.S. hospitals calculating your bill’. In this meme, U.S. hospitals are portrayed as ‘dumb blondes’. I am very inspired by the Reddit page ‘coronavirus memes’.

Courtesy of Christine Wang and Galerie Nagel Draxler

Courtesy of Christine Wang and Galerie Nagel Draxler

What is your recipe for survival in a time of almost only bad news?

To survive, I have to meditate every day. I read books about Buddhism. This helps me to identify my own fear, grasping, and illusions. I try to become more accepting of my faults. I am also relying on a group of friends and artists who have a Zoom meeting every Sunday. We take turns sharing and processing our emotions. It is free group therapy and a wonderful way for me to feel more connected with people. I also eat chocolate.

What is something that we all (each of us, personally) could do to make the world a better place when this disaster comes to an end? It is clear that the world will no longer be the same again, but at the same time...there is a kind of magic in every new beginning.

To make the world a better place, we can try to be less grasping. In other words, we can try to be less firm in our desires. We might not need to be right all the time, or win, or be ‘a success’. We can slow down and do nothing and maybe meditate. I am grateful that the shelter-in-place order in San Francisco is allowing me to face my own boredom and striving. I can see more clearly how uncomfortable I am when I am just by myself and faced with all of my thoughts. After this is all over, we can try to be more patient with ourselves and other people.

The art world and the culture sector is one of the most affected. What is the main lesson the art world should learn from all this? How do you imagine the post-apocalyptic art scene?

Increasingly the art world is becoming more digital. I am now teaching painting and drawing online. Some of my students are in quarantine and cannot get art materials; others no longer have their thesis exhibitions. My students and myself have to adjust to online ways of looking at art, including online viewing rooms and online exhibitions. Today I told a student without paint to try using coffee or tea. The student asked me if they could make a digital drawing on their iPad. I wondered if tea was somehow inherently better than an iPad, and I have to conclude that one is not better than the other. Unfortunately, I am still invested in physical paint. I feel old-fashioned; maybe I feel the way that the Abstract Expressionists felt when they saw Pop Art for the first time. Many of my students look to Instagram for inspiration and they do not remember the name of the artists who inspire them. Their phones remember the Instagram handle for them. I feel disgusted, horrified, bemused and resigned. Clement Greenberg must have felt the same disgust when young artists looked at advertisements and ‘Kitsch’ for inspiration. Eventually, I will die and my students will become artists and teach more students, and they will use Instagram to communicate their artistic lineage. I can't change that and it feels post-apocalyptic. I accept it.

Christine Wang. Photo: Taylor Johnson

Christine Wang . Boobs. 2018. Photo courtesy Christine Wang and Galerie Nagel Draxler

Christine Wang. Congratulations. 2019. Photo: Wilfried Petzi

Courtesy of Christine Wang and Galerie Nagel Draxler

Christine Wang . The Ice All Melted. 2019. Photo: Simon Vogel

Courtesy of Christine Wang and Galerie Nagel Draxler

***

Christine Wang (* 1985 in Washington DC) is represented by Night Gallery in Los Angeles and Galerie Nagel Draxler (Berlin, Cologne, Munich). She is currently Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing at California College of Art and lives and works in San Francisco. In 2020, The Armory Show and Pommery Champagne were pleased to announce Night Gallery’s presentation of Meme Paintings (2020) by Christine Wang as the winner of the second annual Pommery Prize for the exceptional presentation of large-scale artwork from The Armory Show’s Platform section.

The works of Christine Wang are as witty as they are multilayered while navigating through the complexity of being an artist, activist, and fellow human being. Wang is not afraid to paint lively and confrontationally. Sometimes it may take a while to apprehend that the work was done by a young female painter and not by a rascal of the Internet. Her pictures and sculptures combine bold colors, daring phrases, and popular images with a visual vocabulary that combines religious and political images, and screenshots of memes that draw a genuine grin on our faces on topics that are funny but not funny.

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