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Patricia Karetzky. Exhibition Review: ‘Bound Unbound’

Works by Chinese artist Lin Tianmiao (b. 1961) have recently been on view in the solo show ‘Bound Unbound: Lin Tianmiao’ at Asia Society in New York (ended 27 January 2013). For Lin, this is a triumphant return to New York, where she lived for eight years before returning to Beijing in 1993.

During her New York sojourn, Lin did not produce any art, but worked in the textile design industry. It is clear that her years of experience infused her art with an appreciation of the potential of textiles as a means of expression. In the earliest piece on view, she fabricated a number of fantastically ghostly gauzy costumes and wigs for an installation piece in collaboration with her husband, renowned video artist Wang Gongxin (b. 1960). The resulting video is shown on several screens, with the garments worn by performers in the video included as a costume installation arranged in front of the screens. The erratic screeches of the accompanying score convey the uncertainty and fitful nature of urban life lived by these marginal denizens. The two floors of the exhibition area house three other rooms given over to her works. Many of these are self-portraits, wrapped or draped with thin strands of silk thread – Lin’s trademark technique – and predominantly white in hue. Affixed to the ceiling of one of the hallways is a hazy photo of a full-body self-portrait from which a multitude of gossamer white threads descend and pool on the floor. In her 2008 installation, Mothers (2008), irregularly cut large rectangular pieces of white silk cover the walls and floors of the room, and nested intermittently around are a number of headless white dolls of varying sizes that replicate Lin’s middle aged and slightly portly body . 

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