Tag Archives: Andy Cao

when art and gardens collide

Those of us who chase gardens and plants seem to divide into two camps: Those who enjoy art works in the garden and those who don’t. Oftentimes, leaving out ostentatious decorative pieces is as bold a statement as their inclusion.

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No need for any distractions from the muscular trunks of this tree in Connie Cross’ garden on Long Island.

But because they are intended specifically as outdoor settings where artists can develop work in response to the site, places like Longhouse on Long Island, New York, and Cornerstone, Sonoma, California, can give the viewer an experience impossible for indoor museums to duplicate. Another example would be what the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley is doing with its ongoing exhibit “Natural Discourse.”

Being a simple creature, always ready to be dazzled by anything that sparkles, what I unreservedly admire is the work at Cornerstone Sonoma of Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot. Whatever the theme, such as the harsh life of Chinese migrants working on railroads in 19th century America, these two never underestimate the seduction of glittering surfaces. I love the gleam, the reflectivity, the shimmer, the swirl, the sensual results achieved with simple industrial materials — heck, I love everything I’ve seen by Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot.

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“Red Lantern,” Cornerstone, Sonoma, California

But not all artists choose the glittery approach. At Longhouse, a sculpture garden on Long Island, New York, Yue Minjun’s “Chinese Contemporary Warriors” stayed with me long after the visit. I don’t keep up with contemporary art, so hadn’t heard of this Chinese artist famous for his “laughing man” series. From what I’ve read since the visit, laughing maniacally seems to be the only response left for this artist after the heartbreak of Tiananmen Square. All I sensed at the time from the figures was a forced and disjointed communal gathering that resulted in an eerie isolation, which the enclosed setting of hedges on an austere groundwork of gravel reinforced. Very spooky and very sad.

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Yue Minjun’s ‘Chinese Contemporary Warriors,’ a cynical riff on the terracotta warriors

Two very different approaches, one that attracts and one that repels, yet both had me wanting to know more about these artists and their work.

anatomy of a late-summer road trip

Is there a tinge of desperation in the road trips of late summer? By the end of summer are we stuffing itineraries with an absurd number of places to see in the dwindling opportunities to experience daylight until 8 p.m.? Guilty here. I’ll give a recent example from just this last weekend. And for the similarly desperate, there will be a trail of bread crumbs to follow for potential future road trips for the fall season. By fall I’ll be reconciled to the inevitability of autumn’s shortened days, and any road trips then will undoubtedly be washed in a golden haze of acquiescence to the rhythms of the seasons.

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image courtesy of Thread and Bones

It all began with a 63-foot-long hall in an apartment in the Mission district of San Francisco that could use the services of our 9-foot-long Turkish rug. The one we can’t use at home because of the prodigious shedding capabilities of the corgi. (Even the thinnest pretense for a late-summer road trip will do.) Los Angeles to San Francisco, roughly six hours. I’ve made this trip many, many times and have lived in a couple of the trip’s stops, like Petaluma and San Francisco. Familiarity increases the speed factor, another important consideration for late-summer road trips. My workload was fairly light, so Thursday to Monday were clear. Marty has been working all summer weekends, so it would just be me and my smart phone, a formidable traveling companion that can read to me How The Irish Saved Civilization in between navigating duties. The only question left was:

Before delivering the rug, where would I like to go?

Continue reading anatomy of a late-summer road trip

raise the red lantern

More photos from MB Maher as he meanders north of San Francisco, these from Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma, California, a collection of outdoor gardens inspired by the International Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire, curated by owner Teresa Raffo.

I haven’t been back yet to Cornerstone to see Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot’s “Red Lantern,” the second of their chicken-wire-and-crystal installations at Cornerstone, a companion piece to “Bai Yun” (“White Cloud”), so I was excited to see what Mitch’s photos would reveal. Andy Cao says “Red Lantern,” installed summer 2011, was probably inspired by his empathy for the experiences of Chinese railroad laborers in 19th Century America, in which he found an echo for his own sense of displacement as a Vietnamese refugee. (For me a red lantern will forever be associated with the 1991 Chinese film by Zhang Yimou, “Raise the Red Lantern,” on the queue for repeat viewing tonight.) Railroad tracks lead to a giant lantern glittering with red crystals, which may or may not allude to traditional Chinese wedding headdresses. While I’m strongly attracted to the seductive, sparkling details of “Red Lantern,” overall I prefer “White Cloud” in a landscape — less specific, more dreamy.

This photo from the Cornerstone website conveys the general outlines of “Red Lantern.”


But as these photos from MB Maher illustrate, Cao and Perrot’s intention is to create a work where the viewer can “Step inside a painting and experience it themselves.” Lauren Reed-Guy for San Francisco Chronicle.


In the end, the only thing I need is my intuition and how I see and that’s it. The rest? I just make things,’ says Cao, who draws his inspiration from art, poetry, music, fashion and photography.” (Meg McConahey for the Press Democrat)



I don’t find sculptural art essential to a garden, but appreciate how a garden — the horizon, earth, water, wind, sunlight and shadow — can be essential to the expression of some artists, and I love how Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot play with these elements.

“White Cloud”


When you see these two materials, crystals and chicken wire, they have nothing in common, he says. But when you put them together, something happens. By taking things out of their context, you give them a whole new application and association.
(Meg McConahey for the Press Democrat)


Cao and Perrot work out of Cao Perrot Studio.