Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, I have the most fondness for bunnies. (I once failed to interest publishers in a book on graphic symbolism of the bunny.) So, I am certain that this Lunar New Year—the Year of the Rabbit—will bring us hope and fulfillment. In this respect I was happy to learn that one of my favorite illustrators, Emiliano Ponzi, has his first solo exhibition in China on display at the historic Sun Ke Villa in Shanghai.
The Dreamer: Stories From Another World gives bunnies their due. The exhibited work pays respect to Chinese culture with site-specific custom pieces, sharing space with Ponzi’s European and American archival output. “It’s the first Italian illustrator solo show in China,” he proudly told me. He’s right to be proud, “especially [given] the magnitude of the venue and the number of artworks displayed.” The show continues until March 5.
On view are over 60 artworks created throughout Ponzi’s career, including graphics, editorial illustration, animation and advertising. His first sculpture My Precious Pillow was designed specifically for the Year of the Rabbit.
The Dreamer is what gallery organizers call “a step-by-step travelogue that analyzes the core of creativity. This exhibition is an ensemble, for it bridges two macro worlds of mankind, an open and chaotic inner world in disorder and restlessness and a cold and orderly business world.”
The exhibition is sponsored by Marvis, a century-old Italian dental brand. Inspired by the Mad Hatter (“Reject banality; being crazy helps me keep my head”) in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Ponzi’s fluffy wonderland (above) is decorated with imagined scenes for the brand.
His so-called dreamland includes surrounding mirrors and a fluffy meadow to “amplify the imagination.” Craziness in art is often not well-organized. “Mirrors in the space represent a reflection of the real and the imagined,” he notes. “The fluffy bunny guides the audience into the dreamland to explore the boundary between craziness and rationality.”
All this is housed in Sun Ke Villa, one of Shanghai’s most historic buildings in the European (in this case) Spanish Moderne style, which is also a blend Italian Renaissance and Baroque, designed in 1931 by Modernistic architect Laszlo Hudec, known for bringing Art Deco to Shanghai. The villa belonged to the only son of the “founder of modern China,” Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and is located in Columbia Circle on Yan’an Road; as a Western enclave, this district dates back to the 1920s and 1930s.