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Happy 4th of July! From the World's Premiere Gunpowder Artist

Cai Guo-Qiang transforms fireworks into eardrum-shattering "smoke paintings" in cities across the world.

Will Cai Guo-Qiang ever admit he got into art just so he could blow stuff up? Probably not, as that might harm his international standing as a "serious" artist. But secretly, I think he's chuckling along with Beavis and Butt-Head whenever he sets off one of his mushroom cloud-making flame bombs.

To ring in this year's Independence Day, here are hits from Cai's rotation of conflagrations designed to raise the threat level. Let's begin in April with "Sky Ladder," a fiery shotgunning of 40,000 rockets from the side of the Geffen Contemporary center at MOCA in Los Angeles. The latest in the artist's Projects for Extraterrestrials series, the orgasm of fire includes "pyrotechnic flying saucers, burning crop circles, and an alien god":

Next up is 2011's "Black Ceremony," in Qatar, billed as the largest-ever release of daytime fireworks. Debuted at the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, the artwork addresses historical trade agreements between China and the Middle East. Pump up the volume to set off car alarms and annoy the neighbors:

In 1998, he bombed the Taiwan Province Museum of Art with 25 kilograms of gunpowder. Imagine being an unwitting security guard in the museum when this went down:

A more disturbing "Black Fireworks" display created a mushroom cloud above Hiroshima's Atomic Bomb Dome in 2008:

Finally, here is 2005's "Black Rainbow," the raising of an achromatic arch above Edinburgh, Scotland. If you're wondering, the somber puffs of ebon smoke are a commentary on the suffering caused by modern terrorists:

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