Zhao Yao: You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me
Beijing Commune, 798 Art Factory, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 10015
12 June – 12 August, 2012
Last year’s solo show of the work of Zhao Yao, his first with Beijing Commune, left me with a less than positive feeling. To then have that (rather strong) feeling overturned by this new presentation of what is ostensibly the same work, is somewhat surprising.
The development of Zhao’s two solo shows with Beijing Commune are important starting points for an analysis of this change of heart. In 2011 Zhao’s first solo show, entitled I Am Your Night, collected together a set of works that I disliked for being overly derivative of current stylistic clichés in internationalised contemporary art. Their aggressive shapes, mannerist constructions, and vibrant colours all seemed to smack of a style seen too often elsewhere in the world and possibly revealing a symptom of a globalisation of artworks. One nice touch however were the strings of the Chinese character 啊 (an “ah” of various kinds of interjection) in long, pulsing lines around the room, following the walls and floors to provide a physical thread holding the other objects together.
The current show is pitched as a continuation and manipulated repeat of I Am Your Night, demonstrated by its opening on the same date, and using many of the same works (several borrowed back from collectors for this purpose), in much the same arrangements, or adjusting the originals in scale or material to create new versions of the objects. The title of this show “You can’t see me, you can’t see me” is obscure, but perhaps mirrors this aspect of repetition.
One might think that this second show would only reinforce my original opinions – but while I still do not like the forms of the objects, my understanding of the show and consequently my overall feeling has been transformed. This time I left the show with a sense of déjà vu, an incomplete feeling that opened up further possibilities for an appreciation of the works.