Yishu Journal: ON | OFF – China’s Young Artists in Concept and Practice

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Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, 798 Art District, Beijing

January 13–April 14, 2013

With ON I OFF, an extensive group show that occupied all of the exhibition spaces at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing, curators Bao Dong and Sun Dongdong attempted to come to grips with the ongoing issue of rationalizing the latest round of artists to have emerged on the Chinese visual arts scene over the past few years. They chose to pursue a course of highlighting what they see as the diversity of current art production in China. The curators framed this diversity as a distinctive trait of the Chinese art environment, a trait they say works against generalizing views, describing the exhibition as an expression of “polyphony” and “multiplicity.” They go so far as to characterize contemporary art in China as “a series of encounters,” each of which must be taken on its own merits, also claiming that “any artistic practice is yet another attempt at defining the scope of practice itself.” As a result, contemporary art practices can be understood neither from “a sociological perspective—seeing [them] as evidence of any number of social realities and ideologies”—nor “by way of the so-called internal logic of artistic language and method.”1

In the exhibition format of ON I OFF itself, the curators deliberately attempted to reflect this understanding of the contemporary art world in China. Its fifty participating artists (or, in three cases, a duo of artists) were presented in what might be described as a “flat” format in the sense that there was no articulation by category, theme, or highlight. That said, despite the curators’ premise of multiplicity and the consequent lack of logical organization in the gallery spaces themselves, it was possible to pick out particular connections among the artworks.

Several artists’ work displayed an interest in investigating form or material, a a manifestation of a kind of “internal logic” that the curators apparently dismissed. The painterly abstractions of both Xie Molin and Wang Guangle, which, while using diametrically opposed techniques—Xie Molin has developed a machine to create the evenly-spaced furrows in the thick, multi-hued painted surfaces of Ji No. 4 (2012) and Inconsistent Output No. 6 (2012); while Wang Guangle labouriously hand-paints subtle progressions of coloured pigments, layer after layer, to create physical stacks of paint on the canvases121101 (2012) and 121102 (2012)—share a concern with the physicality of paint. In Heiqiao Tower of Babel (2012) and The Unknown Shimmering at the Edge of the World (2012) by Li Shurui, multiple canvases depicting shimmering interference patterns were connected to create structures that invaded the spaces in which they were installed. Liang Yuanwei’s paintings of repeating floral motifs, Pisces (left) (2011), and Pisces (right) (2012), retain an element of process-based activity in their creation, as these motifs were meticulously picked out from a gradation of colour travelling from the top to the bottom of the canvas. At first glance these repetitions appear cool and unemotional, yet the patterns apparently relate to clothes worn at significant events in the artist’s life.

[To read the full article, please pick up a copy of the Journal or visit the Yishu website]

ArtAsiaPacific: Yu Honglei at Magician Space, Beijing

“Everything is Extremely Important: There is Nothing That Will Not Come Back Again”

Yu Honglei solo exhibition, curated by Aimee Lin @ Magician Space, 798 Art District, Beijing, China

12 July – 8 September, 2013

By Edward Sanderson

Various objects and constructions are dispersed around the first room of “Everything is Extremely Important: There is Nothing That Will Not Come Back Again,” Yu Honglei’s solo exhibition at Magician Space. It is assumed that each is intentionally chosen and arranged, and as such suggests that they are imbued with meaning. Yet in Yu’s presentation, while objects and assemblages tempt interpretation, their meanings are left resolutely unclear—never quite fulfilling the viewer’s efforts to read them.

A low barrier perforated with a brickwork pattern is coated in a lumpy, clay-like material with two digital clocks, displaying identical times, inserted in the gaps. On the other side of the room, a similar barrier is laden with the same shapeless material this time supporting a light bulb and fitting. Towards the back wall two sky-blue wooden beams (reportedly from an “ancient building”) stand upright on tripods, with stuffed budgerigars clinging to their surface. A low, black, wooden box stands to one side, with two black porcelain cat figurines perched neatly on top.

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Fresh Visions 2013 curator’s text: Judging the Temperature of Art by Degrees

[English text below]

由毕业展探测艺术的未来温度:艺术学院及批判性实践

李蔼德

作为文章的前言,我想说明一下,虽然我在中国当代艺术界积累了一些经验,但为这次展览做的前期准备是我第一次与中国学院系统进行的持续接触。这篇文章则是我对这一体验的初步回应。

今年新视觉展的参展作品选自中国八大美院绘画系的学士、硕士生毕业展。毋庸置疑,我对这些作品充满期待,毕竟它们的作者理论上将构成中国艺术界的未来。可惜的是,满足这一期待的作品虽未匿迹(其中一些将出现在新视觉展上),却也寥寥无几。宏观看来,各大毕业展中的作品在艺术实践上都稍显保守,我猜测这种保守主义与推进学生艺术创作的美术院校不无关系。其中,具有批判性的艺术实践是最为关键的缺失,在我看来这却正是艺术院校应当展示出的成果。

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ArtSlant: Branding a New Generation of International Artists

Hugo Boss Asia Art – Award for Emerging Artists exhibition

Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China

13 September – 8 December, 2013

Art’s relationship with branding sees a new incarnation with the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award, produced in collaboration with the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai and in this first instance addressing itself to artists from what is termed the “Greater China” region.

The Hugo Boss Asia Art Award creates a new geographical focus for the fashion brand, running in parallel with the original “Hugo Boss Prize” which began in 1996. The seven short-listed artists for this award have already developed strong bodies of work, and one of the strengths of this show is that many of the artists’ presentations are retrospective in nature. Hsu Chia Wei from Taipei, Kwan Sheung Chi from Hong Kong, Li Liao from Shenzhen, and Hu Xiangqian and Li Wei from Beijing all present a selection of work from across their careers. On the other hand, rather than presenting older extant examples of their work in this context, Lee Kit from Hong Kong and BIRDHEAD from Shanghai, have created large-scale installations that build on previous works.

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Yishu Journal: A Potent Force – Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan

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Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai
January 26–March 31, 2013

Under the all-embracing title of A Potent Force, curator Karen Smith presented the work of the Chinese artists Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan at Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum. Each artist was accorded two floors in which they were represented by a broad selection of works produced mainly since 2008. The umbrella title led one to perhaps expect some explicit connections between the two artists, but, for me, it was their differing backgrounds, styles, and sensibilities that came to be highlighted by their close proximity.

Taking the title as an indicator of her vision, Smith suggested that the phrase “A Potent Force” was designed “to intone the lyrical, introspective, and sentient intellectual process that characterizes these two subtle plays with painting (Duan Jianyu) and conceptual video and installation (Hu Xiaoyuan).”1 Smith proposed that this “force” “references the nature of both artists’ analysis of the world as they experience it.”2 The title, then, acted to express a general quality that resonated between the two artists’ work rather than a specific stylistic, formal, or conceptual attribute.

Smith describes A Potent Force as expressing “the force of socio-cultural shift in the margin of age that separates these two artists, which is underscored by the atmosphere in which they passed their formative years.”3 The “margin” she refers to here is the cusp between the differing experiences that mark the two artists’ generations – Duan Jianyu having been born in 1970 and Hu Xiaoyuan in 1977. As with many aspects of society in China’s recent history, such an apparently short period of time can represent the advent of massive social changes.

In the catalogue for the exhibition, Smith introduces Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan’s background and practices before approaching the artists individually, and she acknowledges their differences by characterizing them as “two strongly individual artists”4 and (regarding their productions) as displaying “unrelated approaches to expression: two distinct languages.”5 Smith characterizes Hu Xiaoyuan as “belonging to a generation that is past cynicism, and no longer cares so earnestly,”6 pitting these characteristics against those of Duan Jianyu’s – that Duan Jianyu’s generation remains cynical and (yet) still cares “earnestly.”

Smith seems to be arguing that the connection between Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan is related to the concurrence of the periods in which they grew up and developed their practices. The respective eras in which the two artists were born, Smith proposes, mark two sides of a dividing line between one generation and the next. It appears that Smith aims to cast this generational “margin” as a focus of the exhibition, located in between these two artists’ productions.

[To read the full article, please pick up a copy of the Journal or visit the Yishu website]

ArtSlant: An Act of Critique

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Us and Institution, Us as Institution

Guangdong Times Museum, Times Rose Garden, Huang Bian Bei Lu, Bai Yun Da Dao, Guangzhou, China

29 July – 11 August, 2013

As the various flavours of institutional critique have now become “institutionalised” as part of the practice of contemporary artists, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back curated by Biljana Ciric at the Guangdong Times Museum in Guangzhou aims to reassess the origins, methodologies and effects of this practice.

It can be said that One Step Forward… builds on the work of the curatorial team within the Times Museum (and those of its invited curators) since its formal opening in 2009. They have approached their practice with a self-awareness that has consistently led to exhibitions, symposia, and publications that have productively investigated the ideas and roles of the institution as a structural body within the art system – in a way performing their own institutional critique through their daily work.

This exhibition deliberately moves the focus away from a canon of western artists associated with the development of institutional critique, onto artists and groups from other parts of the world who develop out of it and/or trace parallel trajectories to it.

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artforum.com.cn: Nowhere to Land – Yin Xiuzhen at Pace Beijing

无处着陆:尹秀珍个展 Nowhere to Land – Yin Xiuzhen

2013.07.20–2013.09.28 佩斯北京| Pace Beijing

Pace Beijing, 798 Art District, Beijing

20 July – 28 September, 2013

以一系列表现烟花绽放于漆黑天空的画作作为尹秀珍最新个展的开场或许有着什么特殊的含义(“烟花”系列,2012-2013)。尹更为人所知的是她融合缝制在一起的衣物的装置性作品,而在此她的画布都是几何形状的:六边形、十二边形等等。画布深深的边缘侧面被灰色的颜料覆盖,在画布周围凸起成脊状。在隔壁的一个黑暗的展厅里,一座如同雕琢过的宝石状的大型雕塑伫立在地面上(《黑洞》,2013),彩色的LED灯从雕塑里打出。这个宝石是由黑色T恤做成的,每个logo和标志都放在了雕塑立面的正中。

衣物始终保持着与人体的某种联系,甚至当穿衣人不在时一样如此。在尹秀珍的作品里,这种与人体的联系保持着一种叙事方式,仿佛这些衣物的原主还继续活在这些作品中。有时艺术家在衣物的柔软(可被理解为生物体的一种性质)与另一种材料的坚硬之间做出明显的对比。《救生筏》(2013)就是一套被黄色衣服覆盖的座位形状的作品,由一套铁管框架支撑。许多根汽车尾气管也从这底下戳出,这些管子高度磨光的金属质地可被理解为“救生艇”的喷气推进系统。这种相似的连接以更佳的效果出现在《无处着陆》(2013)中。一个原尺寸的飞机起落架被倒过来放置在画廊地面上。走近看你会发现,这个巨大的轮胎也是由纺织物制成的,而支撑它的金属结构则包含了金属的盆和盘,忠实地模拟了飞机的形态。

从画廊高屋顶垂下的是“孤独”系列(2010)。一根长长的管状米黄色织物条内部一节一节地被塞得鼓鼓囊囊,有如章鱼吸盘。一只童鞋挂在这条向下垂吊一端,并且只有鞋尖轻轻触地。当画廊里空气流动时,作品也来回移动,而这只鞋子则开始在地板的沙面上画线。这个超现实的人体部分以一种奇特的方式侵入画廊的空间,并以它不协调的存在形式和无目的的移动制造出一种关乎失去的辛酸感。在这件作品中,尹秀珍成功地将意图的精妙与富有诗意的标志性材料和外形结合在了一起。

— 文/ 李蔼德 (Edward Sanderson), 译/ 吴玉笛

The first works encountered upon entering Yin Xiuzhen’s current solo show at Pace Beijing are a series of paintings representing bursts of fireworks against a dark sky (Fireworks Series, 2012–2013). Each canvas is shaped as a geometric form, a hexagon, dodecahedron, etc. the deep edges of which are each coated in thick grey paint, building up in a ridge along the front surface of each piece.

It is perhaps significant that paintings serve as the introduction to this show, as Yin is better known for her installations incorporating elements made from stitched-together clothing. Turning the corner into a darkened room, a large structure shaped like a cut diamond sits on the floor (Black Hole 2010). The facets of the diamond are made from panels of black t-shirts, with the logos and symbols applied to the original items positioned centrally on each facet. These also have small gaps between them, through which light from an LED array inside the structure glows in ever-changing colours.

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