Learn about Taoist Art and Chinese Avant-Garde on This Week's Trip

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Byline: Barbara Vitello Daily Herald Staff Writer

This is your last chance to see the Art Institute of Chicago's landmark "Taoism and the Arts of China," the first major exhibition to focus on Taoist art, philosophy and religion.

Tao (which translates into English as "the Way") is described as an empty void that serves as the source of reality. Within that void exists a force which morally righteous people can use to transform the world.

Taoism dates back to the Bronze Age (the fifth through third century B.C.). Besides informing much of Chinese art, politics, medicine and military strategy, Taoism has also merged as a religion that millions of people still practice.

The exhibition traces its evolution - addressing fundamental philosophical beliefs, early cults, rituals and deities - within the context of art. The exhibition includes more than 150 works (some of which have never been seen outside the People's Republic of China) dating from 500 B.C. to A.D. 1800.

It concludes Sunday at the Art Institute, 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Friday; 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free on Tuesday. (312) 443-3600.

An alternative exhibition: For art lovers who favor the contemporary, the Walsh Gallery presents "Shanghai 2000," an exhibition featuring 53 works by 11 avant-garde Chinese artists.

"Americans who associate Chinese art with birds and flowers will be astonished," says Julie Walsh, the gallery's co-director.

Artists featured in the exhibition are among China's most independent, reflecting the "Shanghai School," which incorporates both Chinese values and western influences.

"Shanghai 2000" continues through Jan. 20 at the Walsh Gallery's temporary exhibition space, 118 N. …