Chambers Fine Art, Red No.1-D, Caochangdi, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100015, China
18 February – 25 March, 2012
Hong Lei’s particular form of mythicized, fetishized work would usually not attract me. In other artists I have found the saturated content and symbolism seen in Hong Lei’s myriad works too heavy-handed and oppressive, leading me to feel the work held itself—and the audience—too far apart from a reality.
This is something that I’ve recently experienced in the work of Cai Guo-Qiang, for instance – an urge to create a critical mass of meaning at the expense of a connection with the audience. In the process I experienced alienation through the latter artist’s works, by what I found to be its highly considered and artificial approach to the subject matter.
While this is certainly a risk with Hong Lei’s works on display at Chambers Fine Art, in this case I’ve found that the artists lightness of touch and subtlety of its approach to the viewer—while not resolving all of my issues with its tendency to objectify aspects of its subjects—entices the viewer in and adds a sense of wonder to the overall installation, à la the fantasist Borges.
MATHAF Arab Museum of Modern Art, near Education City, Doha, Qatar
5 December, 2011 – 26 May, 2012
Cai Guo-Qiang’s work straddles a sometimes-uncomfortable line between spectacle and meaning. Saraab, the overall title of his blockbuster solo show at MATHAF in Doha, and its “explosion event” in the desert nearby, translates from the Arabic as “mirage” in a wholly appropriate allusion – officially to the subject matter of the works, but perhaps unintentionally to the effect of the heavy symbolism that Cai employs.
The artist had been invited by MATHAF to create a new series of seven large-scale installations. Alongside these a representative selection of older works provided an overview of the artist’s trajectory. The depth of material available in the show created a unique opportunity to fully appreciate the artist’s work, demonstrating in many ways that it has remained remarkably consistent over the years.