Cai Guo Qiang’s Cosmic Wonder

On April 7th, 2012, Cai Guo Qiang presented his Mystery Circle Explosion Project in downtown Los Angeles. 40,000 fireworks ignited simultaneously, creating a spectacular pyrotechnic display on the northern exterior wall of The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. In less than 3 seconds, a vivid and intense fireworks display lept forward towards the audience from the outlines of three crop circles in which they were carefully loaded. As the sparks died out, a giant smoke cloud rose into the air, flames smoldered into the charred imprint of burning crop circles and outline of an alien life form. The outdoor explosion project, titled Mystery Circle: Explosion Project for MOCA, Los Angeles, is the latest work in Cai’s Projects for Extraterrestrials series that began in 1989 and has since included more than 30 works.  Transcending the gap between now and then, Cai’s work investigates the universal mystery of creation, stating “at this moment of destruction, you create something miraculously beautiful.”

Sky Ladder, is the first West Coast solo museum exhibition of the work of artist Cai Guo-Qiang. Known for his explosion projects and gunpowder drawings, Cai’s work integrates manual technique and new, highly sophisticated developments in pyrotechnic technology.

Born in 1957 in Quanzhou City, Fujian Province, China, Cai moved to Shanghai in 1981 to study theater design at the Shanghai Theatre Academy. After spending nearly a decade in Tokyo (1986-95) he moved to New York City where he currently lives and works. At the close of his studies in 1985, Cai began experimenting with gunpowder. The resulting works, which he has described as “unpredictable splendor,” combined his interest in chance and the physically as well as culturally charged material.

“Cai Guo-Qiang: Sky Ladder” will be on display at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary from April 8 – July 30th, 2012.

Joslin Van Arsdale