STEAMED buns, cash, cigarettes and counterfeited handbags are the subjects artist Kevin Berlin has chosen to reveal the inner secrets and emotions. Ma Zhenyan looks at his new exhibition
Internationally acclaimed artist Kevin Berlin's solo exhibition "Double Happiness" premieres at the Fu Xin Gallery through next Wednesday. With this portrait series from Shanghai, the New York-born artist delves deep into the city's secrets.
The exhibition features 60 of Berlin's most recent works, divided into three groups - "Steamed Buns and Double Happiness," "Cigarettes and Cash" and "Bags." Each painting tells its own story.
"Every figure in my paintings has a secret. I not only draw what people see, but also the hidden parts," says Berlin. "I'm searching for something you can't find, like Shanghai's secrets."
Berlin records secret motives and emotions with unexpected and provocative impulses of his brush. The nude girl in the black and white oil painting on two canvases "East Meets West," one of the master's favorite pieces, symbolizes the secret desire of a girl at a cocktail party. "This Shanghai girl is perfect in her daily life, but she told a friend that she wanted to be a stripper just for that moment."
The exhibition is the artist's exploration of human desire. Steamed buns, cash, cigarettes and counterfeited handbags are the subjects of his works, and he tries to show us the various desires and happiness that lie in these scattered, trivial fragments of daily life. Although the reasons for happiness may vary from person to person, the themes are the same and are all about human desires.
Fu Xin, the director and curator of Fu Xin Gallery, says that "Double Happiness" is really Berlin's study of happiness.
"It's definitely a beautiful fine art exhibition, but it is also about the artist's trial to ask of a modern society like Shanghai - do you know what happiness is? What makes you really happy? I think it's very sharp and points out what Shanghainese are looking for today."
Also on show is "Lost Heaven," an installation of 23 packs of cigarettes. The installation includes the famous cigarette brands "Double Happiness" and "Chunghwa," which will be familiar to most Shanghai people.
Any Shanghainese will be able to see themselves in Berlin's works.
"I love people. I want to communicate to everybody, I don't want to be selective," says Kevin when asked about the drive behind this show. "I like to include everyone. There is something for people with a complex education, but there is also something for people with no education at all. Everyone is looking for happiness."
Fu thinks "Double Happiness" is about Shanghai culture seen through the eyes of a New York artist with the unique perspective of an outsider but instinctively with an insider's story.
"Berlin's paintings reflect the social changes in modern Shanghai: urban life, women's status, social gaps and Chinese enterprises in modern Shanghai," she says. Berlin studied classical Chinese painting at Yale University in 1988, and won a grant to travel in China in 1989 with the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing.
His works can be found in the collections of Kim Basinger, Luciano Pavarotti, Buzz Aldrin, Henry Buhl, David Letterman and Bill and Hillary Clinton. He has appeared in The New York Times, The Miami Herald, USA Today, and CBS Sunday. Berlin was honored by President Reagan at The White House as a "Young Arts Presidential Scholar" in 1983.
Date: through March 4
Address: 87 Moganshan Rd
"DOUBLE HAPPINESS" OPENING PARTY PHOTOS by Lewiss Lu