ArtSlant: Be Floored

A Wall on the Wall, A Floor on the Floor: Wang Wei solo show

Magician Space, 798 Art District

13 September – 31 October, 2012

The two pieces by artist Wang Wei currently on show at Magician Space address two aspects of constructed space—the wall and the floor—in one succinct installation. As the title makes clear, the pieces are literally a wall and a floor, but their structure, placement, and relationship to each other, and their existence within the gallery space, mark them out as out of place. This gives a suggestion, backed up by the text for the exhibition, that these pieces are from other places, reproduced here by the artist and working to create a representational power through the elements that they are made up of.

In this case, tiling is the consistent constructive element; for the wall small tesserae in blue and two shades of brown are framed by white grout, with larger marbled dirty-white tiles for the floor. Knowing Wang Wei’s previous referencing of tiled structures from institutions, these seemingly banal tile arrangements may suggest a similar referent. Beijing Zoo in particular has provided a rich mine of references for the artist. In his show last year at Boers-Li Gallery in Beijing (reviewed on ArtSlant.com), he presented the mirror-tiled Propaganda Pavilion, and in 2009 created another set of wall pieces at China Art Archives & Warehouse (Natural History 1 & 2), in both cases based on structures from that Zoo. But in this case there is no explicit reference to the source of this wall and floor, the text simply stating that they are “different places in reality.”

The titles of these new pieces, A Wall on the Wall, A Floor on the Floor, relate these to another set of tile works by Wang Wei that appeared in 2010 at Platform China in Beijing. In the group show The Third Party (curated by Beatrice Leanza) he presented two examples of the sample displays one usually finds in hardware stores, used to demonstrate the type of effects possible with their tiling selection.

Despite the inert and hard-wearing nature of ceramic tiles, the quality of those in Wang Wei’s wall and floor at Magician Space display a certain sense of wear and tear – in a presumably deliberate act, several tiles have dropped from the wall, leaving rough-plastered gaps behind. The floor also comes in two parts, an outer and inner section, separated by an thin, exposed, dirt filled channel, perhaps the residue of where a wall has been removed (or due to some strange scaling effect that has enlarged the outer section, pulling it away from the inner – related to the scaling process performed on the floor of Wang Wei’s Historic Residence at Space Station in 2009?).

By these imperfections these new pieces flaunt their displacement from the reality of the gallery and assert they come from “real” places. Even though in this case we are not told where the reality of this remove lies—the “actual” that they refer to—it exists in our imaginations through these imperfections as another origin.

The floor piece in particular emphasises the messiness of reality and stands in stark contrast to the ability of a gallery to tidy things up and enforce a break with the outside world. This black gap suggesting where the wall may have been ripped out, leaving the inner and outer grids forcibly brought into relation but out of alignment. The angled placement of the floor piece, inserting itself as a wedge through the gap between the two gallery spaces, throwing it out of alignment with the room, again emphasising this is not a unique placement but reflects something outside of itself.

The wall piece serves as a more muted background to the apparent drama of the floor. Its abstract, seemingly random arrangement of small tiles simply covers the wall, with neither focus on any section nor resolution into representation. These pieces are simply what they are said to be, a wall and a floor, but pregnant with allusions.

The institutional references in Wang Wei’s work are significant as demonstrations of the effects of displacement of one institution into another by the appearance of these tiles within the gallery space. What this amounts to, though, is uncertain. These new works build on previous ones without moving far beyond them in terms of development. Any developments that might be pointed to are minimal, subtle changes that are difficult to judge without seeing more examples. But for all that, this wall and this floor are effective in the space of the gallery, in their veiled suggestions of other spaces beyond the gallery’s walls.

Author: Edward Sanderson

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