Tobacco and Tigers and Rugs… MASS MoCA Part II

Chinese artist Xu Bing has a large exhibit at the MASS MoCA that is certainly worth the drive to North Adams, MA.  Behind the larger portion of the exhibit (which I may blog about later) is his Tobacco Project with a piece called 1st Class.  As you walk up the back stairwell to the lofty room where this piece is laid out the warm odor of unsmoked tobacco welcomes you and then, turning from the stairs the beautiful tiger skin rug stuns you.  It is massive and lush, full of texture and detail.

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Walking around it, you can see it has a “light side” and a “dark side”, as do quality hand knotted rugs.  There is almost a slight sheen when the light hits certain parts of it.  You have to approach the rug from both sides and walk all around it.  And then you have to crouch down to examine and imagine how all those 500,000 cigarettes were painstakingly propped and positioned into place.

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It is amazing and full of thought provoking symbols.  The luxury of a skin rug and the wealth of the tobacco industry contrasted with a film documenting the poor working conditions used to build that industry.  The exhibit was thought provoking and visually exquisite.
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