Liu Wei rose to prominence in China in the early 2000s with a diverse practice encompassing painting, photography and sculpture, often presented with a touch of humour. His solo show at White Cube focused on recent sculpture and installation pieces that demonstrated the artists professed move away from figuration but which, in the process, seemed to lose some of the agility that characterised the artist’s earlier practice.
Liu presented works from three distinct series that were organised over the two floors of the gallery. Dominating the basement gallery floor stood six geometric sculptures (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, from the ‘Density’ series, 2013) – including a cube, a ball, and other less specific shapes, the larger pieces looming over the visitor. These works used layers of cut books to form their off-white surfaces; the Chinese characters printed on the books’ pages still visible along the cut edges. This paper lent a material softness to the sculptures that contrast with the hard-edged, abstract shapes they formed.
Long March Space, 798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing
1 September – 7 October, 2012
Long March Space present a strong body of new works by Liu Wei, which seem to progressively build upon and develop various aspects of this artist’s works. The results suggest monumentality in their occupation of space while retaining an uncertainty in their inability to be defined and interpreted. This opacity of the pieces is apparently mirrored by the reticence of the artist to elaborate on them too specifically. This is aside from some general statements made by him and his gallery to accompany this show, which seem questionable in the context of the work.
Liu Wei is lauded as an important artist in the Chinese artworld, and to an extent deserves that accolade. He has developed various patterns for his artwork, which he has committed to and has honed over time. Liu Wei produces work that seems intelligent and thought through, providing a serious basis on which the artworld can place a certain amount of trust that—unlike many artists in China—he will not undermine that solid base with some random change of direction.
La Chambre Claire: Liu Chuang, Liu Wei, Wang Yuyang, Zhang Liaoyuan, Zheng Guogu, curated by Tang Xin, Su Wenxiang, Xu Chongbao
Taikang Space, Red No.1-B2, Caochangdi, Cuigezhuang, Chaoyang District, 100015 Beijing, China
7 April – 2 June, 2012
With an abrupt reference in its title to a book by Roland Barthes (which appeared in English as Camera Lucida), this show gets underway, presenting works by five Chinese artists with a relation to the “phantom” of photography.
The artists’ particular approaches to the medium of photography are varied. In this show Liu Wei is the only artist to include actual photographs, with several examples from his series As Long As I See It, from 2006 on display. These works demonstrate a certain instrumentality by the artist, as he takes a Polaroid of an object and then proceeds to cut away parts of the original object to match the view presented in the photograph, presenting them both together in some kind of cause and effect relationship.
Liu Wei’s view of photography as a process forming the world in its image is the most straightforward use of the photographic medium in this show. The other works in the show proceed from the fact of photography to step away from the object of the photograph into terrain that addresses the meaning of this thing that is called photography.
Breaking Away – an Abstract Art Exhibition: Chen Yufan, Ding Yi, Gong Jian, Guan Fengdong, Hou Yong, Huang Rui, Jiang Fang, Jiang Zhi, Liang Quan, Liu Wei, Xie Molin, Xu Hongmin, Yan Lei, Yang Liming, Zhang Enli, Zhan Rui, Zhang Wei, Zhong Shan, Zhao Gang
Boers-Li Gallery, I-706 Hou Jie, 798 Art District, No.2 Hou Yuan, Jiuxianqiao Lu, Beijing, China
9 April – 8 May, 2011
The politics of abstraction tread a very fine line. The style can be favored as a rejection of the illusions of representation in favor of a more direct engagement with perception, material and form; or, it can be perceived to be a rescinding of responsibility from making clearly defined statements. Breaking Away, Boers-Li Gallery’s second major group show since decamping to 798, presents approaches to abstraction by Chinese artists, suggesting its continued relevance for them. While presenting a fine selection of works picking up and over the traditions of abstraction, as an unintended consequence Breaking Away also makes problematic the relationship between historical and contemporary work within the gallery context in the current art environment in Beijing.
Breaking Forecast: 8 Key Figures of China’s New Generation Artists is a groundbreaking exhibition presenting new and recent works by the most compelling emerging and mid-career artists working throughout China today: Cao Fei, Chu Yun, Liu Wei, MadeIn, Qiu Zhijie, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Yang Fudong and Zheng Guogu. The first of its kind, the exhibition affirms UCCA’s dedication to supporting the development of Chinese art. Combining genres of painting, performance, photography, video and installation, this exhibition will define the future of Chinese contemporary art for years to come. [emphasis mine]
And “emerging” is always a tricky word to define, too.
It’s not that I don’t recognise that this is an interesting group of artists (and, in my opinion, it’s always good to see more of Chu Yun), and we’ve all been guilty of the odd bit of hyperbole in our time, but that last sentence…
The self-aggrandisement that’s coming through in this piece, and the way UCCA are presenting the artists in this text, actually seems to be using them as a side-line to UCCA’s own historical positioning statements – and of course that’s exactly the (overt or covert) purpose of exhibitions (and—by association—the artists involved in those exhibitions). My issue is not with the uses to which exhibitions (or artists) can be put, but with this wording that seems to revel in this programme. At the end of the day, it’s quite exciting to find a text which is so blatant about this.
To be fair to UCCA, my issues with them deserve a more considered post, but this particular press release was too galling to let slip by.