The Allure of Matter

Developed by the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, the website for The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China emphasizes the creative use of unique materials by 26 Chinese contemporary artists, through original videos, archival images, and short profiles.

Since the 1980s, these artists have felted hair into gleaming flags, stretched pantyhose into monocrhomatic paintings, trained silkworms to spin over metal chains, and even skillfully molded porcelain into paper-thin sheets. The Allure of Matter showcases these material transformations and explorations for the first time. “Material Art” is an art form that involves an artist’s consistent use of unconventional materials to produce works in which material, rather than image or style, manifests the work’s meaning. In these artworks, the material itself is the message, helping the artist communicate conceptual ideas beyond those that are painted on the surface of a canvas or carved into a sculpture.

The Allure of Matter brings together a constellation of highly individualized projects. Some of the artists have dedicated the majority of their careers to working with a single material; others have adopted a specific material for a certain project, using the material to expand the meaning of the work.