American artist reinterprets art of Chinese blue and white porcelain

Installation work of Mark Cooper's former exhibition Yu Yu Tangerine, 2013 Photo:

The traditional Chinese blue and white porcelain refers to white porcelain decorated under the glaze with a blue pigment, generally cobalt oxide. Originated in Tang Dynasty more than a thousand years ago, and a significant media of cultural communication for centuries, this traditional Chinese art will be reinterpreted by American multimedia artist Mark Cooper through his own understanding of Chinese culture, globalization, and collaborations with emerging contemporary Chinese artists, and presented at an exhibition in Beijing.

The exhibition entitled YuYu China Blue will raise the curtain on Tuesday at Yuandian Museum, and will last until February 29.

YuYu refers to the rockeries and architectures of Yuyuan Garden which is located in Shanghai, and China blue manifests the great influence that Chinese blue and white porcelain has had on the world for centuries.

The exhibition is notable in the sense that the recreated porcelains will be displayed as components on a maximal installation jointly made by Chinese and American artists by hand.

“One of the most important aspects of the exhibition is the terrific and positive experience of collaborating with Chinese artists as a metaphor that the sum of the parts is greater than the individual parts,” said Cooper in an interview with the

In 2013 Cooper’s YuYu Tangerine exhibition in America, most of his works were affected by China’s contemporary art and history, for example the wood sculptures fabricated in China, ink prints and drawings on rice paper. The artist’s paintings and collaborative paintings coalesce into a complex cultural conversation on aesthetics, techniques, installation and immersive exhibition practices.

Cooper also recreated the classic ceramic porcelains produced in Jingdezhen, China’s capital of porcelain, with traditional rice paper occasionally collaged onto them.

Hundreds of translucent printed and inked rice papers cascade from the walls, framing the paintings and wall sculptures, and highlighting the architecture of the museum. The wooden sculptures were made with diverse architectural and natural forms, from bamboo scaffolding to scholar rocks, and beehives to Victorian curio cabinets.


For this exhibition, Cooper has worked with artists from Beijing, Jingdezhen, and the US to create ceramics, sculptures, paintings and drawings that have coalesced into over 500 objects.

The Beijing-based artists include Ma Shuqing, Wang Sunshine, Wang Ying, Xu Quan, Yan Feng, Zhang Tiancheng and Zhu Liye. In Jingdezhen, under the auspices of the Jingdezhen University Academy of Ceramic Art and Design Arts, Cooper has produced sculptures with Chen Shi, Cheng Xin, Cheng Yun, Hu Qiang, Lu Maoshun, Shao Qi, Zhang Baoqing, Zheng Fengyin, and Zheng Wenhua, including contributions from the students from the Class of Ceramic Arts of 2013. Contributing artists working in the US are Furen Dai, Jessica Lu, Brielle Mariucci, Silvi Naci, Waxin Zhang and Dayan Ding.

The basic premise of this exhibition Cooper said is that “everyone brings their individual voice and the sum of the parts (voices) is greater than the individual voices.”

“In working with other artists it is somewhat like jazz where I provide a basic starting point and overall prompt and they take it in their own direction. It is also like a dance even when there isn't a common language - we start with trust and goodwill and work back and forth in response to the other,” Cooper told the

Installation work of Mark Cooper's former exhibition Yu Yu Tangerine, 2013


In this exhibition, Cooper also used diverse materials and techniques-imagery that is drawn, painted, glazed, and reproduced photographically on ceramics, wood, canvas, walls, and rice paper. This, as Cooper interpreted, reflects “cultural history, global influence, and individual artistic expression.”

Another focus that needs a mention is the collage and assemblage skills utilized in this exhibition.

For Cooper, the language of collage or assemblage is a catalyst for individual associations and perceptions that impacts brain functions of the viewers in a different way than a linear narrative.

“My approach of collage/installation/assemblage and the conversation between disparate parts is a metaphor for international trade and Internet access of information. Research has proven that collage/assemblage/installation engages the viewer in a different way than a linear narrative which might have a beginning, midpoint and end,” he said.

First exhibition in China

While Cooper started to work with Chinese artists three years ago making objects for an exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, it is the first time that the American artist is holding an exhibition in China.

Born in the 1950s, Cooper grew up in Southern Indiana. There was very little contemporary art then, and becoming an artist was never discussed at that time, Cooper told the

He went to business school, but found it boring. He later took art, music, and literature classes and anything that could keep his mind working in a creative way.

He took ceramics in his senior year in college and built an electric potter wheel by himself. He also joined a law school for one year, but took a leave later and never returned.

In the following years, Cooper came across many mentors who helped him become an artist.

Reference: YuYu China Blue: Mark Cooper Solo Exhibition

Information about the exhibition

Opening ceremony: January 12, 2016, 3 pm
Duration: January 12-February 29, 2016
Address: 112 Lizexiyuan North Guangshun Street, Wangjing, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China (元典美术馆)

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