From Ordinary to Art: Long-Bin Chen
When viewed from a distance, the striking Buddhas of New-York based Taiwanese artist, Long-Bin Chen, look like marble or wood sculpture. They have stony expressions, but they are soft and so pliable you can actually flip through them. Award-winning Chen joins other artists like Vik Muniz who would agree that "one man's trash is another man's treasure." Muniz assembles his leftovers, creates a painting, photographs his work, and then destroys the original. Chen assembles but doesn't discard. He uses primarily trashed paper for sculpture believing that nothing should go to waste--- not out-of-print phone books, magazines, newspapers, or computer printouts.
Chen matches his material to his subject, selecting particular discards for each sculpture. Among his recent Buddha heads, a form he favors consistently, is one called "Sotheby Buddha," assembled from old Sotheby auction catalogs. Another, "One Buddha, Two Worlds," consists of Taiwanese books on one side of the divided Buddha head and mainland China books on the other.
Chen's work ---Buddha faces, Chinese warriors, and complicated installations with video ---are created from stuff that usually ends up in a dumpster in our paper-based society. His art expresses what he calls the "cultural conflict and problem of communication in the world." With his sculptures, he seems to be reminding viewers that while China has a booming economy, it is still restricts free speech and freedom of the press. Outspoken dissidents end up in jail. One keynote idea in Chen's work is the importance of a transparent open society. A recent Buddha sculpture made from discarded Verizon white pages contains the names and numbers of millions of New Yorkers. The Buddha sculptures also represent the missing heads of many ancient Buddha figures that have been looted from Asia and sold to Western museums and collectors.
Chen's sculptures usually have an inner core of metal or wood over which he stacks his "waste" paper. He first carves with a band or chain saw following up with a dental sander for fine details.
The New York Museum of Arts and Design exhibition "Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary" showcased Chen's technique in a studio presentation where he demonstrated how the so-called "trash" he gathers can be transformed into art. In that show and in another previously at his New York gallery, Frederieke Taylor the theme of his work was the convergence of Chinese and American cultures, both wasting immeasurable amounts of non-renewable resources. His most recent show was at Plum Blossoms Gallery in Hong Kong where his work sold between $8,000 and $10,000.