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12.5: Contemporary Sculpture (2000 - Present)

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    In the twentieth century, sculpture in Asia was limited for decades because of wars, government coups, and cultural revolutions. Wars forced people to flee their homes; monetary resources were allocated to survival, military equipment, and armies. In China, the century saw British invasions, two world wars with the Japanese invasion, communist wars, and the cultural revolution. Southeast Asia suffered from the same wars as the Vietnam War and Khmer Rouge battles. India was burdened with the British and the fights to become their own country, as well as religious wars and the split of India and Pakistan. Art was not in the foreground of people's lives until the end of the twentieth century, when economics and politics began to improve. 

    By the twentieth century, art was thriving in all the countries, and sculpture had become an essential part of the art scene. Sculptors also used materials different from traditional European bronze and stone. Local materials became part of the sculptor's imagination, and local traditions and environments were also important. The following artists are included in this section:

    • Dadang Christanto (1957-) 
    • Anish Kapoor (1954-)
    • Bharti Kher (1969-)
    • Choi Jeong Hwa (
    • Dao Droste (1952-)
    • Han Sai Por (1943-)
    • Sopheap Pich (1971-)
    • Zhang Huan (1965-)
    • Ju Ming (1938-2023)

    Dadang Christanto 

    Dadang Christanto (1957-) was born in Yogyakarta, Java, and has an ethnic Chinese background. When Christanto was eight years old, soldiers entered the house and took his father away, his fate still unknown. The political situation in Indonesia is unpredictable and includes many attacks against the art community. He studied art at the Indonesian Art College. He explored social and political issues during this period using theater and literature. "It has been estimated that between 100,000 to 2 million people were killed in Indonesia during this period."[1] The fall of the government in 1998 brought new artistic freedoms, and formal government permission and inspections were not required for artistic exhibitions. For most of his career, Christanto created large paintings to honor victims of political violence and those who suffered from crimes against humanity. His images ask for compassion and support for those who suffer from their political beliefs. 

    Dadang's sculpture, Which gives evidence (12.5.1), depicts other types of repression and censorship resulting from societal norms. The figures represent the mental and physical injustice people suffer from poverty, persecution, and power. Dadang believes in non-violence, and his work tries to bring the significance of a peaceful society to the foreground. Dadang created clay models to make the figures and made clothing shells by mixing terracotta powder, fiberglass resin, and cloth. He packed the garments with newspaper and painted them with resin. The figures are standing in a grid formation; however, people can still walk between each figure. Each figure stands silently; their mouths are open without sound, reflecting their anguish as victims. Each statue holds the clothes once worn by a person who has disappeared. "The figures are not only a representation of the 'earth,' but also of 'victims holding victims'; those who have disappeared and those who are left behind to grieve."[2]

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): They give evidence (2002, terracotta powder, resin, fiberglass, cloth, resin, 200 cm high) (Nicholas TapsonCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

    Heads from the North (12.5.2) is a transcultural memorial that reflects violence in another country at the hands of another nation, the violence remembered by the neutral nation. Dadang created the monument to recognize victims of violence throughout the world in 1965, especially in Indonesia. Dadang made sixty-six bronze heads, which he cast from six unique clay molds, and installed the sculptures in a marsh pond. Each head protrudes from the water and looks around the world through indigenous plants and reeds. Dadang made sixty-six head because 1966 was the most intense year of violence. Decapitation and disposal of the bodies and heads in the seas was a common form of governmental violence, and Dadang positions the heads to be barely above water, capturing the fear people have as they see the violence coming. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Heads from the North (2004, bronze, cast, 1600 x 2300 cm) (minerva95ausCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

    Anish Kapoor

    Anish Kapoor (1954-) was born in Mumbai, India. Kapoor's mother was Iraqi Jewish, and his father was a Punjabi Hindu. As a child, he went to boarding schools and lived in Israel, where he changed his studies from electrical engineering to art. Kapoor went to England and trained at the Hornsey College of Art and the Chelsea School of Art and Design, and he remained in London to pursue his career. Kapoor has an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford and a knighthood for his services to visual arts. Originally, Kapoor was known for his geometric and biomorphic sculptures using simple, brightly colored forms. Then, he explored voids and how to distort or change the concepts of reflections and shape or have things seemingly disappear. Kapoor used granite, marble, stone, limestone, or plaster in these earlier sculptures. Since 1995, he has moved to creating oversized structures using polished stainless steel to take advantage of the reflections off the shiny surface. 

    Kapoor is also known for his support of refugees worldwide, and he even received the Genesis Award in 2017 for his work on behalf of the Syrian refugees. He stated, "I am an artist, not a politician, and I feel I must speak out against indifference for the suffering of others. There are over 60 million refugees in the world today – whatever the geography of displacement, the refugee crisis is right here on our doorstep."[3]

    Space and Color

    Internationally renowned sculptor Anish Kapoor creates objects and large-scale site-specific installations that challenge perception and provoke metaphysical introspection. Employing materials such as wax, raw pigment, fiberglass, stone, mirrors, and cement, his work engages fundamental dualities of life and death, darkness and light, and presence and absence. Kapoor is the recipient of numerous honors, including the 1990 Premio Duemila, awarded to the best young artist at the Venice Biennale, and the 1991 Turner Prize. He is the most recent contemporary artist to show at the Palace of Versailles, where he is displaying works throughout the gardens.


    The sculpture, Turning the World Upside Down, Jerusalem (12.5.3), is located in Jerusalem as part of the museum expansion. The sculpture is shaped like an hourglass and made from highly polished steel. The curved form collects the surrounding reflections; however, the reflections are reversed because of their shape. The top part reflects elements on the ground, and the lower half reflects the sky and clouds. The reverse reflections present a color contrast and relate the spiritual nature of Jerusalem and the concepts of earthly/heavenly. 

    Cloud Gate (12.5.4) was made for the Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois, and was nicknamed 'The Bean' because of its unusual shape. The entire structure is made from 168 plates of welded stainless steel. The sculpture was polished, and none of the welding seams are visible. Kapoor wanted the city skyline, clouds, the sky, and people to be reflected in the sculpture and was inspired by the fluidity and reflectiveness of liquid mercury. The space under the structure is 3.7 meters high, and visitors can walk through it and take photos of themselves, which are reflected in the shiny metal. The underside is concave and creates multiple images of the visitor. The sculpture's interior is made from several steel rods inserted into the ground and connected with stainless steel rings and trusses to hold the exterior shell's weight. After installing the exterior plates, the seams had to be sanded and polished to develop a highly reflective surface. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Turning the World Upside Down (2010, stainless steel, 5 m high x 5 m diameter) (Oren Rozen, CC BY-SA 3.0)
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): Cloud Gate (2006, stainless steel, 10 x 13 x 20 meters) (vincent desjardinsCC BY 2.0)
    How the Bean was made

    In this video I describe how the bean in AT&T square, millenium park Chicago was made in a step by step process of this beautiful art piece!


    The ArcelorMittal Orbit (12.5.5) was made for the 2012 Olympics in London. The structure has an elevator to take visitors up to the observation deck and see the panoramic scene of London. A 455-step staircase spirals around the tower for visitors to climb down or take the slide that curls around the tower on its descent. The structure is made of 560 meters of steel painted red, along with 350 spotlights (12.5.6), giving the tower a different look at night. The tower is twenty-two meters higher than the Statue of Liberty. Although the structure took almost 2,000 tons of steel, about 60 percent of the material was recycled. Kapoor stated, "I wanted the sensation of instability, something that was continually in movement. Traditionally, a tower is pyramidal in structure, but we have done quite the opposite; we have a flowing, coiling form that changes as you walk around it. … It is an object that cannot be perceived as having a singular image from any one perspective. You need to journey round the object, and through it. Like a Tower of Babel, it requires real participation from the public."[4]

    Figure \(\PageIndex{5}\): ArcelorMittal Orbit (2014, steel, 115 meters high) (Cmglee, CC BY-SA 3.0)
    Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\): ArcelorMittal Orbit at night (you_only_live_twiceCC BY 2.0)

    Bharti Kher

    Bharti Kher (1969-) was born in England and received her BA from Newcastle Polytechnic. She moved to India in 1993, where she still lives. Her art is based on a relationship between an object and its metaphysical and material dimensions and how she repositions the concepts and thoughts the viewer previously held. Most of her work includes the bindi, the red dot women in India apply to their forehead between the eyebrows. The red dot contains significant traditional and religious meanings and is generally associated with the Hindu definition of the third eye. Kher explained, "Many people believe it's a traditional symbol of marriage while others, in the West particularly, see it as a fashion accessory… But actually, the bindi is meant to represent a third eye – one that forges a link between the real and the spiritual-conceptual worlds." [5] Kher uses the bindi as part of her art, shifting the meaning. Her sculptures are generally fantastical, blurring the lines between real and mythical, typically made from found objects with their definition, which becomes changed. Kher makes her objects open to misinterpretation and magical thinking of abstract forms.

    The Skin Speaks, a language not its own (12.5.7), is Kher's most well-known work. She became interested in the concept of elephants after seeing a photograph of a collapsed elephant being put into a truck, an image she had remembered for a long time before making her elephant. The life-sized elephant is made from fiberglass and lies on the ground on its stomach with its head turned. If an elephant dies, it falls to the ground on its side, and this elephant is sited differently. The elephant is covered with white bindis, forming unending patterns on the elephant. Kher used the bindi to act as a skin on the elephant, giving life to something dying. The heavy elephant appears to be lifted by the thousands of bindis as the bindi do not stop while they move over the elephant's skin. The elephant's head is turned, and the eye looks at the viewer.

    Kher wanted to create the heart of the massive blue sperm whale; however, she did not find enough scientific documentation about the construction of the whale's heart, so she invented her version in An Absence of Assignable Cause (12.5.8). Kher designed the life-sized heart and added veins and arteries jutting out from the enormous heart. The sculpture is covered with colored bindis, which Kher applies individually to create precise patterns and movement. The monumental installation also reflects the position of the immense whale in the disintegrating environment. The video describes the installation of Kher's installation.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{7}\): The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own (2006, fiberglass, bindi, 142 x 456 x 195 cm) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
    Figure \(\PageIndex{8}\): An Absence of Assignable Cause (2007, bindis on fiberglass, 173 x 300 x 116 cm) (Jennifer Boyer, CC BY 2.0)
    The skin speaks a language not its own

    The Contemporary Art Evening Auction to be held at Sotheby's New Bond Street on Monday 28th June includes some of the most exciting works to appear on the open market in recent years. Seminal and long-recognized masterworks of Contemporary Art such as Yves Klein Re 49, Lucio Fontana Concetto Spaziale, La Fine di Dio, Gerhard Richter Neger (Nuba), and Frank Auerbach Mornington Crescent - Summer Morning would be worthy centrepieces of museum collections and are accompanied by more recent manifestations of artistic brilliance by the likes of Richard Prince Millionaire Nurse, Jean-Michel Basquiat Untitled, Bharti Kher The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own, and Jeff Koons Bear (Gold) and Jim Beam - Baggage Car. A particularly strong concert of Contemporary British Art includes important works by Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach and Paula Rego, complimented by exceptional pieces by Peter Doig and Antony Gormley. This auction presents a remarkable and rare opportunity for important acquisition, and offers some of the very best Contemporary Art available today.


    Choi Jeong Hwa 

    Choi Jeong Hwa (1961-) was born in Seoul, Korea. His father was a soldier and a secretary for a Buddhist monk, and he learned the harsh realities of life from the soldier and the religious life from the monk. Choi started drawing in high school, and at Hongik University, he majored in Western art styles. When he went to Europe to see the museums and galleries, he found the art separated from the people. He believed "Art that survives in the streets, and not in an art gallery, is real art."[5] At home, he saw how the people in the marketplace stacked and exhibited their goods to sell, learning art in the marketplace. Choi finds material for his artwork from the market stalls and places around him. He constructs his work outside for anyone to see. He sees his work as beautiful calligraphy and how the person manages the space between and within each character. Choi builds his structure outside, and he believes art is like bait, and if people see art where they live, they will learn and want to see more. Choi uses old and new objects for his art and forms the objects into meaningful displays based on where he is and how the local people will relate.

    Choi's belief in art as an experience constantly in our lives is reflected in his sculpture, Breathing Flower (12.5.9). The bright red lotus is an essential symbol in Asian countries, a reminder to live in the present. The red color is associated with good fortune and vitality. Choi used fabric to bring the lotus to life, and the flower's immense petals open and close with puffs of air, appearing as it does in nature. The flower's petals are six meters in diameter, each petal moving slightly as though breathing or a mild breeze blowing. Love Me, Pig (12.5.10) was made for the Lunar New Year of the Pig and recognizes the pig as a symbol of wealth, fortune, and luck. Choi used the same techniques for the pig as the flower. Using shiny pink fabric, he constructed a giant pig with wings. The wings slowly move back and forth as though the pig is breathing. However, he did make the inside of the pig – empty – a statement about the emptiness of our mass consumer culture. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{9}\): Breathing Flower (2012, fabric, motor, steel frame, steel, metal) (Franco FoliniCC BY-SA 2.0)
    Figure \(\PageIndex{10}\): Love Me, Pig (2019, fabric, motor, steel) (Jnzl's PhotosCC BY 2.0)
    Video Title

    A time-lapse video of the installation of Choi Jeong Hwa's "Breathing Flower" in San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza. On view during the "Phantoms of Asia" exhibition at the Asian Art Museum


    Choi is frequently thought of as the father of Korean pop art. For his display Happy, Happy (12.5.11), he used recycled plastics and plastic containers he found at the dollar stores. The sculpture is assembled like an installation; visitors can walk around and through the objects, touching anything. Adding the sensory experience gives people more enjoyment, especially with the bright colors and unusual shapes of the objects. Choi made multiple sets of this sculpture and installed them in different locations. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{11}\): Happy Happy (2015) (MuleonorCC BY-ND 2.0)
    Happy Happy

    Pyeong Chang 2018


    Dao Droste

    Dao Droste (1952-) was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and wanted to be an artist, except Vietnam was at war and nobody studied art. She relocated to Germany in 1971 and studied chemistry, earning a PhD with distinction. When she finished studying, Droste switched to art and opened her studio. Droste is a Taoist and believes" that you have to accept what is and that you have to always be fully present at the moment without thinking of what comes next. "[6] She always wanted balance. Her family resides on four continents, although she believes Vietnam is her spiritual home. Droste's major focus for artwork is based on the environment and sustainability. She stated, "I experienced the garden of my parents' house in Gia Dinh, north of Saigon, as a tropical paradise with huge, colorful butterflies. However, the war and the defoliant Agent Orange have left little of this paradise. I experienced this painful loss directly. For me, biodiversity is not an abstract concept. I have a deep respect for nature. My awareness of their threat is very much influenced by my own experience. In my work, I represent the power of the original to 'reflect.'"[7]

    The heads on this side beyond (12.5.12) are placed in small circles with seven heads in each circle. Each head is made from fired clay, with silvery-gray shoulders and brown heads. The heads seem unconnected yet appear to form a small community. Although each stands alone, they look at each other and communicate symbolically. Initially, they appear to be replicas of each other; however, closer examination reveals they all have injuries of some sort. The heads represent how people in the world relate, all separated by borders, inflicting injury on each other and still needing to communicate and change. According to Vietnamese belief, life is an ever-renewing process that also includes death. "Accordingly, the deceased does not leave the living; he just switches to another form of existence, and everything begins again. The boundary line between this side and the other - it seems to me - is not very clearly drawn. Life is seen as a cycle - and so the circle in which Dao Droste arranged the busts has a further meaning."[8] Some of Droste's heads (12.5.13) were oversized and lying outside. Each head conveyed the same message of how we are alone yet connected and our relationship to nature. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{12}\): Diesseits Jenseits (this side beyond) (2006, clay, paint) (JocarandaCC BY-SA 4.0)
    Figure \(\PageIndex{13}\): Terra cantans (2010, bronze) (KeckoCC BY 2.0)

    The concept of open-mindedness is found in many of Droste's sculptures and installations. She bases the images on people's relationships with each other and the harmony of man and the environment. Each face in this sculpture (x.x) is portrayed without any other body part, demonstrating how the face displays the person's real emotions and feelings. The shiny aluminum frame reflects the trees and sky, becoming part of the sculpture and giving each face a different set of shadows throughout the day. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{14}\): Open-Mindedness (2010, bronze, stone aluminum, 2 m.) (4028mdk09CC BY-SA 3.0)

    Han Sai Por

    Han Sai Por (1943-) was born in Singapore and survived the Japanese occupation during World War II. The family lived in poverty in a house of cardboard boxes covered with coconut leaves. When she was ten, her mother gave her a book about Michelangelo's sculptures, and she has been inspired since then. However, Han's early training was as a teacher, and she took a few courses at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts until she could go to England and receive her bachelor's degree from Wolverhampton College. By 1997, Han became a full-time sculptor. Most of her sculptures are made in granite or marble and are made into organic forms. Por stated, "A sculpture is not a cold piece of stone, clay, or metal. It has a life of its own. It's the sculptor's way of expression, and it's his companion."[9]

    Tonnes (12.5.15) has no specific reference and is primarily a sculpture to engage the viewer. The mammoth stones are carved into squares and marked with lines and dots. Viewers can walk among the stones and touch them to feel the energy and mass in the stone. The viewer must also wonder how Por worked on the granite and made it into perfect squares. The original stone was one big piece of granite Por carved into the interesting squares. Por was inspired by the impacts of human behaviors, and the ecology of the systems and nature has been a significant inspiration for her work. She created a series called Seeds (12.5.16), creating oversized examples of seeds for plants that signify life's vitality. The organic feel of the stone is carved into seeds, and the viewer can touch and understand the value of protecting nature.  

    Figure \(\PageIndex{15}\): 20 Tonnes (2002, granite, 3.2 x 1.5 x 2 m) (Jacklee, CC-BY-SA-3.0)
    Figure \(\PageIndex{16}\): Seeds (2006, sandstone, 1.5 x 1 x 1 m) (Jacklee, CC-BY-SA-3.0)

    Singapore is almost surrounded by water, an essential part of their culture. Shimmering Pearls (12.5.17) is a set of sculptures made from glass that reflect the shimmering movement of water. Water sprays up into the giant glass bubbles, giving the bubbles the illusion of movement. The glass balls are static, and the water jets spray different ways to bring an organic life to the sculpture. Por did not usually work in glass, but for this, she wanted to make the interaction of glass bubbles and water become one. The larger balls are cast glass and painted in different colors, and the smaller balls are blown glass. The colorful glass bubbles glow at night and give the colors a brilliant intensity. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{17}\): Shimmering Pearls (2006, glass, metal) (Hanneorla, CC BY 2.0)

    Singapore was once a place of rainforests cleared for cultivated agriculture and building, causing extinct or endangered wildlife and plants. Location names may be all that is left. Her sculpture Art Tree (12.5.18) demonstrates the trunk of a tree is all that is left after people change the environment. The canopies of the tree turn into the hands that destroyed the forest. The sculptures look like they are moving in the wind as the position of the treetops and the bends in the trunks of the trees give motion. However, the entire statue is made from rugged, unmovable granite. Tetrahedrons are made with four triangles, six straight edges, and four points. Por assembled a series of tetrahedrons from fiberglass in a stack (12.5.19). The work was one of her earlier sculptures, and she did not use stone. As in her later work, the sculpture is more geometric and less organic.  

    Figure \(\PageIndex{18}\): Art Tree (2006, granite) (SgconlawCC BY-SA 4.0)
    Figure \(\PageIndex{19}\): Tetrahedron-tetrahedron (no date, fiberglass, 184 x 62 x 62 cm) (JackleeCC BY-SA 4.0)

    Sopheap Pich

    Sopheap Pich (1971-) was born in Cambodia (previously the Khmer Republic) and survived the wars of the Khmer Rouge, a regime that killed over two million people in four years. He moved to the United States when he was thirteen, and his first experience was sitting in a classroom with a teacher. Pich received a bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a master's from the Art Institute of Chicago. He returned to Cambodia and reunited with his culture. Pich's work is influenced by the images and shadows of his homeland, and he incorporates local materials into his artwork. Using bamboo or rattan, he can boil, bend, dye, or cut the flexible material into whatever shape he wants. His work is environmental, and the materials are easily replaced and inexpensive. Pich uses the burlap left from rice bags and beeswax from local beekeepers, and he collects mineral pigments from Cambodian soil for his colors. Pich's artwork can be abstract, biomorphic, or geometric, displaying a human emotional quality based on Cambodia's history and struggles. "Yet it is the human condition, our hopes and dreams, traumas and nightmares, and the very organic structures they arise from and are enmeshed in, that give his works their visceral power to move us."[10]

    Pich made a series of sculptures from rattan and bamboo representing morning glories or bodily organs. His Morning Glory series was based on a plant called invasive in some places, a beautiful flower in others, and survival in Cambodia. During the Khmer Rouge period (1975-79), famine was common in the land, and the morning glory plant became a sustainable food source. The connections of the abstract qualities of body parts drove Pich's interest in the human body. In Cycle 2, Version 3 (12.5.20), Pich based the sculptures on stomach intestines. He stated I was first interested in human organs for their anonymity in terms of overt meaning. To me, they are abstract shapes that have open possibilities for interpretation. All these things I had thought about began to make some sense—at least enough for me to trust that they make sense as sculptures. Through the years, I made several versions, big and small, of this piece. It continues to be an important work for me."[11]

    Figure \(\PageIndex{20}\): Cycle 2, Version 3 (2008, rattan, wire, 203.2 x 134.6 x 30.5 cm) (GregoryHCC BY-NC 2.0)

    Pich and his family left Cambodia to live in Thailand's refugee camps during the period of the Khmer Rouge. After the Khmer Rouge was defeated, the family walked to a nearby town and lived in a hut by a temple. Inside the temple, Pich saw the destruction of war with broken statues and blood splattered on the floors and walls. The destruction of Buddha's statues inspired his later work of Buddha 2 (12.5.21). He used the rattan strands as a concept of society's status, asking whether the strands are coming together or unraveling. Pich even dipped the ends of the rattan strands in ink to represent the bloodstains, and the entire sculpture represents the broken relationships between religion and culture. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{21}\): Buddha 2 (2009, rattan, wire, dye, 254 x 73.7 x 22.9 cm) (Gary SoupCC BY 2.0)

    Pich made a series called ReliefSeven Parts Relief (12.5.22), one of the images. Mixing beeswax, dirt, and tree resin was an ancient technique, and he liked incorporating the process into his work. The Relief sculptures were flat, and Pich felt like he was painting, but only with multiple dimensions. He was inspired for this series by a trip to northern Cambodia. The region used to be covered with forests and now is seen as barren land with a few shrubs. Villagers used to grow their food sources, but now, the land is being taken by outside forces. Pich used rigid bamboo and rattan to form the grids and a contrast of light and dark—the beeswax/resin surface is interwoven with strips of textured burlap rice bags. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{22}\): Seven Parts Relief (2012, bamboo, rattan, wire, burlap, beeswax, natural pigments, charcoal, unknown size) (pavement-hopscotchCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    Zhang Huan

    Zhang Huan (1965-) was born in Henan Province, China, and lived with his grandmother for the first eight years of his life. He received his bachelor's degree from Henan University and his master's from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. He started as a painter before doing performance art. Zhang moved to sculpture when he became a Buddhist, whose rituals and images of Buddha he incorporated into his art. Zhang was an art instructor during the Tiananmen Square revolt, which affected his thoughts about art and what it should be. He moved to the United States for a while and returned to China in 2006, leaving performance art to concentrate on sculptures and assemblages. 

    Three Heads Six Arms (12.5.23) is one of the series Zhang created after witnessing the destruction of religious sculptures during the Cultural Revolution. He wanted to reconstruct the fragments' forms to restore the broken sculptures' dignity. Zhang used the arms, legs, feet, heads, or hands he remembered seeing lying about and desecrated after the revolution, reassembling them somehow. The copper sculpture is almost 8.2 meters high and weighs fifteen tons. Zhang stated, "The meaning behind the form of Three Heads Six Arms is the transcendental spirit of challenging one's limits, of challenging the very limits of mankind."[12] "A devout Buddhist, the artist believes that by reconstructing these fragments on a grand scale, he reestablishes their former dignity. Based on both Chinese mythology and Tibetan Buddhist iconography, the sculpture embodies the hope that a rapidly changing society, past and present, can co-exist."[13]

    Figure \(\PageIndex{23}\): Three Heads Six Arms (2008, copper) (tofuartCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
    Three heads Six arms

    A massive statue with three heads and six arms appeared in front of City Hall in San Francisco last month and passers-by can't get enough. It's hard to make out what it's all about, but there's enough hidden symbolism to marvel over the masterpiece at different angles for hours on end. Three Heads Six Arms is the work of Chinese artist Zhang Huan who flew in all the way from Shanghai for the unveiling in May 2010. The display is in celebration of San Francisco's 30-year sister-city relationship with Shanghai. This piece of art depicts the arms, legs, feet, hands and heads of Buddhist deities.

    Made from cowhide, steel, wood, and polystyrene foam, Giant No. 3 (12.5.24) is an immense figure measuring 4.5 meters. The sculpture appears to be pregnant while flopping into a sitting position. Zhang used cowhides for most of the sculpture, including the hooves and tails. He considers the sculpture as a transformation where animals gather to form a human shape, or conversely, a human is trying to find safety under the layers of fur, a type of being perched between two worlds. Protruding from the creature's neck is a self-portrait of Zhang Huan covered in the ash he frequently used for painting. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{24}\): Giant No. 3 (2008, steel, cowskin, wood, polystyrene foam, 4.6 x 10 x 4.2 meters) (fabioomeroCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

    The Three-Legged Buddha (12.5.25) is a sprawling, oversized copper and steel sculpture. One of the legs is standing on a partially submerged head rising from the ground, while the other two are on posts. The entire sculpture is made of steel armature and covered in sections with welded copper sheets. The figure has three contorted, muscular legs and bare feet. The legs are modeled after the fragments of Buddha sculptures Zhang saw in Tibet, twisted and bent. The face on the skull is a self-portrait of Zhang. The sculpture also has hatches to access the inside and burn incense. The incense smoke flows through holes in the toes, nostrils, and eyes. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{25}\): Three-Legged Buddha (2007, steel, copper, 859.8 x 12.8 x 699.9 cm) (Sean_MarshallCC BY-NC 2.0)

    Ju Ming

    Ju Ming (1938-2023) was born in Taiwan during the period of Japanese control. He started carving wood as an apprentice when he was fifteen. He also learned how to work with bronze, steel, and ceramics as an apprentice. By 1959, he opened his studio, but he was unhappy with his work and wanted to develop his sculpting skills. Ju said, "When one sculpts at high speed, cutting strokes follow closely upon each other, and attention is focused on the fleeting moment. It is the power of instinct that brings the work to completion."[14]Ju's first set of significant sculptural designs was based on the principles of tai chi, and he sculpted a whole series of figures in different tai chi poses. The sixty-two-piece set of figures were choppy, geometric forms.

    In Tai Chi, the single whip pose is a common form. Generally, the left hand is extended with the palm pushing and the right hand in a closed fist. The solid bronze statue (12.5.26) is positioned as strong and energetic, full of movement. Ju makes the figure seem real even though it is abstracted. The sculpture also represents a sense of harmony as the hard bronze shape contrasts with the graceful movement of the figure. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{26}\): Tai Chi Single Whip (date unknown, bronze, 213.3 x 276.8 x 109.2 cm) (suziedepinguCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    The Gentlemen Statues (12.5.27) represent businessmen on their way to work, just ordinary people. However, the figures are blocky and minimalist, and the human figure is reduced to its basic form. The day is gloomy because they have umbrellas. However, in Buddhism, the umbrella is a sign of respect and is held over statues of Buddha and the scriptures. Ju was Buddhist, and perhaps he respectfully added the umbrellas over the figures instead of the idea of protection from the rain. Some of the men wear raincoats, and others hold suitcases or briefcases. The figures are located in the middle of big office buildings, which is the perfect location for them. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{27}\): The Gentlemen Statues (2015, bronze, size unknown) (life is good (pete)CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    Lining Up (12.5.28) is part of Ju's Living World Series. Ten individuals stand in a row beside the building, eagerly waiting for something. Each of them possesses a unique fashion sense and a distinct set of accessories. Their bodies are blocky and have minimal facial features. Ju carefully crafted each person's shape by carving them out of Styrofoam and then casting them in bronze. These sculptures represent a departure from his usual works, as they are more vibrant and fanciful. The individuals seem to radiate with energy, and their colorful outfits and intricate details are simply mesmerizing. The figures are more colorful and whimsical than his usual figures.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{28}\): Lining Up (2002, cast bronze, 201 x 75 x 78 cm each) (BORALAN ICKAROMCC BY-SA 4.0)
    Ju Ming works reflect everyday life


    World-renowned Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming displays his exploration and understanding of life through his creation, the Living World Series. The Hong Kong Museum of Art is now showcasing 120 sculptures Ju Ming created in the last three decades. In the first facet of the series, the Affectionate World, Ju Ming expressed his concerns about human relationships and his love towards his family. This is apparent in the work A Girl Playing with Sand which portrays his newlywed wife on the beach of Tunghsiao. Ju Ming also looks at the living world from a wider perspective. In the Floating World, he randomly captured human figures from all walks of life. He has no ready connection to the sculptures, and the lack of details and facial expressions suggest they are strangers, and leave room for interpretation.



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    [12] Baker, Kenneth (June 13, 2010). "Big ideas behind a very big sculpture in S.F." San Francisco ChronicleArchived from the original on February 5, 2020.

    [13] Retrieved from  Courtesy of Pace Gallery, New York

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    12.5: Contemporary Sculpture (2000 - Present) is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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