iCulture is a San Francisco based non-profit organization founded in 2010. Our mission is to promote and facilitate the deepening of cultural understanding between and among people from around the world. We strive to enable people from diverse regional, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds to appreciate each others' culture and societal conditions through art exhibits and other activities.
In this April of 2011, iCulture and Asian Art Museum of San Francisco have arranged to bring twenty-five of China’s most influential contemporary artists to the United States for a special artwork installation and symposium at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. To make the most of this rare opportunity, the artists involved will also be speaking to critics, scholars and leading figures in the arts community at events planned at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.
While busily preparing for this event, each day has brought news of another world changing event from the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the political upheavals and social transformation of the Middle East. Restless and out of sorts, these momentous events unfolding around me have brought on a wave of self-examination and made me question the role of those of us in the art world: what exactly are we to do in the face of such momentous social change? What can we contribute to the better good and development of all?
In this era of endless technical transformation and globalization, the world has shrunk to the point where one can travel around the globe in the space of a day, and people as physically distant as those in Russia and Egypt can interact over social networks in real time, ushering in for the first time an era of real personal freedom and self-realization. And yet today we continue to find ourselves clashing at the same national and territorial borders that have stood for hundreds of years, continuing to fight over ethnic and religious issues, fracturing along ever-widening class lines. Indeed, lightning-fast technical development has yet to help us close the chasms that still exist from person to person and from culture to culture. Perhaps art can help us to truly begin to build the bridges that we still seek and desperately need?
Art originates in life, the act of artistic expression giving form to the feelings and ideas originating in the course of experience. Even if those of different cultural backgrounds may interpret the relationship between people and art differently, surely we all share the same emotions and feelings inspired by the human condition. Perhaps if we use art to expose and examine the conflicts and contradictions that remain between us, art can literally be the bridge that closes these gaps in our practical interactions? Particularly as those who appreciate art, if we are able to express our feelings as one with the artist, immersing ourselves within and recognizing the true value of the art at hand, from there we may begin to understand another’s culture background.
There are those who say that art is without question now the goal rather than the means that artists exist for the sake of their works. But I beg to differ. In Chinese culture, the goal of art is not for the sake of the art itself but rather to promote the idea of self cultivation. The best works of art not only promote cultivation within the artist, but also within those who appreciate, view and participate in the art. Art and cultural expressions of real substance can help more of us to cultivate ourselves, increase communication, promote more understanding, and close those gaps that persist between us as individuals – perhaps this is what those of us working in the art field are able to contribute to the greater good.
In many ways San Francisco can be viewed as the most cosmopolitan city in the world, a place where people from all countries gather to live, co-existing in relative harmony despite differences in background and religious beliefs, even while pursuing a myriad of interests and participating in social organizations of every stripe. Because of this we have turned to the underlying essence of this great city for inspiration in establishing the theme of our exhibition and related academic events. “Pure Views” brings us the works of contemporary Chinese artists baptized in the fires of a post-modern multicultural world, offering us a penetrating look at Chinese traditional culture while painting this most cosmopolitan of cities in the brilliant colors of contemporary Chinese art.
For the time being at least, may “Pure Views” bring you happiness and peace in the beautiful Spring of San Francisco.
3.20.2011 San Francisco
I wish to sincerely thank Professor Richard Vinograd of Stanford University, Professor Patricia Berger of the University of California at Berkeley, Ana Hortillosa, Allison Harding, and Jennifer Yin of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco for their kind assistance in making this exhibition and related events a reality. Additional thanks go to Susan Wong, Ling Shang and Jeremy Wegerer for all of their hard work on same.
* iCulture is applying for IRC Sec. 501(c)(3) status.
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