Bang-Boom-Bang! Cai Guo-Qiang’s Gunpowder Paintings at MOCA

Posted filed underChina, Contemporary Art, Shows.

BoingBoing’s Amy Seidenwurm had the chance to help out with Cai Guo-Qiang’s latest work for the MOCA in Los Angeles and wrotr a little report: “Cai Guo-Qiang is making some of the most interesting and beautiful art of our time. He’s been a prominent artist around the world for twenty years or so. I’m embarrassed to admit that I knew nothing about him until just last year when a friend posted photos of his installation at Deustche Guggenheim in Berlin from 2006 on Facebook. The piece that struck me is called Head On and it fills a large room with a pack of 99 life-size wolf replicas leaping into a plate glass panel. It’s incredibly moving and gorgeous.

Cai Guo-Qiang: Head On (2006). Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, Germany. Photo by Hiro Ihara and Mathias Schormann

So, I jumped at the chance when MOCA announced that Cai Guo-Qiang would be doing a series of paintings with imagery produced by exploding gunpowder here in LA and that the museum needed volunteers to assist on the project. I’m not sure why they accepted my application – I know they had far more interest than available slots, and most of my fellow volunteers were artists or art students. But I got lucky. Here’s what happened.


MOCA staff ushers 100 volunteers into bleachers in a large studio space within The Geffen Contemporary. Representatives from Cai Guo-Qiang’s studio let us know that Cai does not speak English and they will be guiding us through the process. Cai will be on hand to give us direction and feedback via the studio team. They also let us know that a documentary crew will be shooting the entire process and we should not wear skimpy clothing or items that could become revealing when we are hunched or stooped over. I hear this as “please nix the low-rise jeans that expose your ass crack when you bend down.” We learn that pyrotechnics are a big part of making these artworks, and that this will be loud and smoky and that we should not participate in the process if this bothers us. I’m so in.”

Read on at BoingBoing.

Cai Guo-Qiang Explosion Work

Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who works primarily in gunpowder, works on an “Explosion Work” on Long Island, New York, in 2006. Video produced by McConnell/Hauser Inc.

Photo on top of page: Shadows created by stencil for Chaos in Nature, Los Angeles, 2012, photo by Joshua White, courtesy The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles