Cai Guo-Qiang—”Traveler”

“Traveler” by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang is a two-part installation at the Sackler and the nearby Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Best known for his grand explosion events as well as for his ability to layer poetic allegory and historical resonance, Cai Guo-Qiang is one of the most significant artists to have emerged in the last decade. “Reflection,” at the Sackler, is a site-specific installation that invites visitors to ponder the interactions between past and present cultures as well as their relocation within a museum that is dedicated to the preservation of the past. The installation places the weathered hull of a 50-foot long Japanese fishing boat, excavated off the coast of Japan, upon an imaginary ocean of gleaming porcelain fragments of deities from Dehua, China. “Reflection’s” monumental arcs and delicately-realized sculptures represent multiple layers of meaning that on one level resonate with a concurrent Sackler exhibition – “China and Iraq” which explores the transformative effect of a wave of imported luxury Chinese goods on 9th-century Iraqi ceramics, while also demonstrating the potential of artistically enriching cultural interactions. Cai links “Reflection” to the installation at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden where “Unlucky Year: Unrealized Projects from 2003-2004” features a selection of the artist’s signature gunpowder drawings. These are tangible visualizations of ambitious projects using large-scale explosives that the artist sought to realize at high profile sites.