"Misfits": Pages from a Loose-leaf Modernity

Tang Chang | Untitled, 1982 (Detail) | Courtesy Thip Tang

"Misfits": Pages from a loose-leaf modernity  
Tang Chang, Rox Lee and Bagyi Aung Soe
April 21-July 3, 2017
Opening: Thursday,  April 20, 7 pm
Exhibition: at Haus der Kulturen de Welt’ to the general information next to ‘Exhibition Hall 2

The first exhibition to open in Exhibition Hall 2 on April 20, 2017 is devoted to three representatives of late modern or proto-contemporary art from Southeast Asia: Tang Chang, Rox Lee and Bagyi Aung Soe. Today, their oeuvres stand at the threshold of art historical canonization, revealing transnational trends in a time before the art market became globalized.

From the 1950s until the 1980s, the poet and painter Tang Chang (1934 -1990) developed a unique practice of calligraphic painting and visual poetry. In his works on paper, Chang, whose family was Chinese, opened a critical window on nationalism, and Thailand’s long struggle with authoritarianism. His paintings, meanwhile, reflect sustained engagements across the spectrum of postwar abstraction. Since the 1970s, filmmaker and cartoonist Rox Lee (born in Manila, 1950) has devised an original visual vocabulary in dialogue with both international experimental art and the Philippines’ rich vernacular and popular cultures. The painter and illustrator Bagyi Aung Soe (1923-1990) embodied an earlier internationalism. Born and raised in Rangoon (then Burma, now called Yangon, Myanmar), in the 1950s he travelled to Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, and studied at the legendary ashram-cum-academy founded by Rabindranath Tagore at Santiniketan in India.

David Teh, curator of the exhibition, writes, “These three singular careers open up unanticipated connections across time and space, around themes of nature and faith, the body and writing, and the emerging culture and politics of the then satellite age. Yet their greatest affinity was probably material, for like so many famous modern artists, these three could hardly make a living from their art. Based on careful examination of their work and detailed conversations with experts, “Misfits” considers what made these artists outsiders, what made them influential, and why their work is important today.”

The exhibition is curated by David Teh in collaboration with Merv Espina, Yin Ker and Mary Pansanga and is part of the long-term project Kanon-Fragen.

Kanon-Fragen was launched in March 2016 with the wide-ranging opening conference A History of Limits, as well as a further development of the exhibition Past Disquiet. On the International Art Exhibition for Palestine, 1978, curated by Rasha Salti and Kristine Khouri. Starting in June 2017, one of the central elements of Kanon-Fragen, the multi-year project Hubert Fichte: Love and Ethnology will begin with exhibitions in Portugal and Brazil. In autumn 2017, a large exhibition at HKW on the Congress for Cultural Freedom established in 1950 in West Berlin and funded by the CIA, which backed countless cultural bodies and events around the world, will be devoted to questions about the geopolitical and ideological framework of art and its institutional legitimation.


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