While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, Cai Guo-Qiang began exploring the properties of gunpowder in his drawings. Cai’s use of gunpowder has become central to his practice, leading to his experimentation with explosives and the development of his signature ignition events.
Travels in the Mediterranean, 2010
Drawing: gunpowder on paper; Pond: water and olive oil
Drawn to the medium for its myriad of associations, his gunpowder work, in addition to his repertoire of large-scale installations and social projects, draws upon Eastern philosophy, Maoist sentiment, and contemporary social issues.
Sunshine and Solitude: Poppy Flowers, 2010
Gunpowder on paper
Though his fireworks are immediate signifiers of Chinese culture, Cai’s aim is to transcend these boundaries, establishing dialogue between viewers and the world around them. His site-specific work often alludes to the culture or history of the city or region where his work is presented, as in his series of ignitions “The Century with Mushroom Clouds: Project for the 20th Century” (1995-96), conducted at symbolic locations in the United States to, as Cai has said, "depict the 'face' of the nuclear bomb that represents modern-day technology."
Cai Guo-Qiang lives and works in New York City.
Detail of Cai Guo-Qiang’s work in his East Village studio. Photograph by Alex John Beck for Artsy.
Details of Cai Guo-Qiang’s work in his East Village studio. Photographs by Alex John Beck for Artsy.