In her seminal 2012 survey This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, art historian Helen Molesworth proposes a model for history writing: “there is never one story, one account, one sense of time that prevails…The game—of history, of politics, of art, of love—is to figure out how to let the clocks strike differently without losing time.” It is certainly a fitting approach to unpacking Mark Tansey’s impromptu exhibition Transformations, held in his apartment and featuring four Chinese artists temporarily living in New York, in 1994. Long before any awareness from critics and discourse, they recognized the potency and bandwidths of realism—marginalized by Conceptualism then as well as now—in each other’s drastically different practices, informed by radically different cultural, pedagogical, and temporal parameters. It is serendipitous yet inevitable that Tansey and the Chinese artists were connected via the Soviet artist duo Komar and Melamid, not least due to the legacy of Soviet brand of Socialist Realism that continued to loom large in art academies in China.
Thank You For Your Love 1994, a forthcoming publication edited by Xin Wang with contributions from Cindy Qi Xingyi, will delve deep into the circumstances and confluences of Transformations, a singular event that speaks volumes to the constellation of contemporaneous experiments as well as anachronistic connections in the increasingly globalized art world in 1990s New York.
Please click the link below to view a pdf version of the special coverage featuring a round table discussion with Mark Tansey, Vitaly Komar, Jane DeBevoise, and Xin Wang; excerpts from Mark Tansey’s catalogue essay in 1994 and Chen Danqing’s memoir about New York featuring Tansey written in 1998 (translated to English for the first time by Qianfan Gu).