Chambers Fine Art
522 West 19th Street, New York
212 414 1169
Tue-Sat: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Endurance: New Works by Xie Xiaoze
Apr 06-Jun 17
Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on April 6th of Endurance: New Works by Xie Xiaoze. Born in Guangdong, China in 1966, Xie Xiaoze graduated from Tsinghua University and the Central Academy of Arts and Design, Beijing before moving to the United States and settling in Texas where he continued his studies in a very different environment. He is currently the Paul & Phyllis Wattis Professor in Art, Department of Art & Art History, Stanford University, California, USA.
As a realist painter by vocation, early in his career Xie found a way to combine his passionate interest in Chinese history and current world events with more formal concerns by focusing on the materials stored in archives and library stacks as the subject matter of his paintings. During his career he has approached this subject matter in many different ways but it is paintings of libraries with which he is most closely associated. The first painting in the Library Western Books Series dates from 1993 but the theme has still not been exhausted. In late 1994 when he returned to China for the first time since moving to the United States, he began working on the Chinese Library Series which is also still ongoing. Ten years later in 2005 a change of emphasis began with the Museum Library Series in which the treatment of the photographic sources is generally more specific.
The current exhibition includes paintings based on photographs that Xie took in libraries in Beijing, Kathmandu, New York, Oxford, New Haven, and Toronto. Unlike the German photographer Candida Hfer whose photographs of famous libraries concentrate on the splendid architectural surroundings created to house collections of books, Xie focuses on telling details, only rarely revealing the name of an author or title of a volume. A great deal is revealed, however, as he lingers on decaying bindings or more serious damage caused by historical events.
In the 20th century Chinese libraries have suffered more than most, a fact treated with particular poignance in Xies Chinese Library series. Dramatic new additions to this theme are the works titled Through Fire Books that Survived the Anti-Japanese War of Resistance at Tsinghua University Nos. I, 2 and 3. After the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, Tsinghua University moved to the south of China and many books were gravely damaged. The partially burnt, scorched pages of these Chinese books and manuscripts attest equally to the long history of suffering caused by global conflicts in the twentieth century and to the constant risk of the effacement of historical memory whether caused by accident or deliberately.
The ancient leather and vellum bound volumes depicted in paintings of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto and the Beinecke Rare Books & Manuscript Library are have also endured many centuries of turmoil and are often in a precarious state of preservation but they are now treasured and preserved in scholarly libraries. The prominence given to the metal shelving in The Morgan Library and Museum f 318 emphasizes the fragility of the books with their decaying bindings.
As a painter, Xie is also a cultural historian, deeply aware of what he refers to as the vulnerability of culture, memory, and history and the seeming decline of printed matter today. The somber tonality and large scale of his paintings endows the volumes with a singular gravitas. He achieves a remarkable balance between detailed recording of the appearance of his inanimate subject matter books and manuscripts and an increasing delight in fluid brushwork and painterly effects that often verge on abstraction.
Transitions: Dong Yuan, Lam Tung-pang and Lao Tongli
Jun 22-Sep 02
Chambers Fine Art is pleased to present Transitions, an exhibition featuring three young artists whose works illustrate the way in which transitional periods within their lives have informed their art practice. The gallery will present the work of Dong Yuan, Lam Tung-pang and Lao Tongli, with each artist submitting works that correspond with significant changes in their personal and professional lives.
For Dong Yuan, the accelerated pace of change in contemporary China causes her to retreat from time to into periods of self-reflection. The last year for example has marked an artistic departure from her previous oil paintings of household objects, and she has instead been creating works that are spiritually connected with the automatic paintings of the surrealists, painting whatever comes into my mind, in a subconscious manner. The resulting compositions are devoid of space and filled with a sea of overlapping shapes and colors. Upon closer inspection, it is in fact creatures and characters of all kinds that populate her canvases, some in human form, others resembling animals or monsters, and all of them with cartoonish sets of eyes staring every which way. Although her paintings are small in scale, their abundance of detail sets up an immersive experience. In one of her less subconscious compositions, Dong Yuans creatures coalesce into an image of Chairman Mao on the 100 renminbi note. The painting is meant as a critique on an ugly by-product of Chinas fast-paced modernization, the writhing mass of creatures representing the greed-obsessed, awful side of human nature.
Lam Tungpang employs similar currency-related imagery in his recent works. Two Hong Kong currency notes, printed onto Xuan paper and then mounted on canvas, have been methodically erased, leaving the faded images of a 10 HK dollar note from the British colonial era and a contemporary 100 HK dollar note issued by the Bank of China. In a 2012 article in the Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, Lam mused that Administratively, much of Hong Kong has returned to the way it was mandated by China, but its culture and lifestyle wont return for at least fifty years... We are exactly in the moment of the shift... After one hundred years, there may no longer be a Hong Kong dollar bill, and our identity will not be found anywhere. Perhaps thats why so many possibilities could happen at this moment.
The two recent works are related to one of his best known pieces, Selling My Soul, which is also presented as part of this exhibition. Selling My Soul was first presented at the Tate Modern in the 2010 exhibition No Soul For Sale, which brought together various independent art organizations around the globe to participate in a large-scale group exhibition. In an piece presented by the Hong Kong-based Para:Site art space, Lam printed avatars of himself on small erasers, which he then used in an attempt to erase four large charcoal drawings. It was presented as a time-based performance piece that for Lam represented the all-consuming act of creating or doing art, illustrated by the erasers that were consumed one by one. Turning the title of the exhibition on its head, Lam argued that the artists soul was in fact constantly being put up for sale, no matter the venue, going so far as to question whether the independent art space is as independent as it always claims to be.
Lao Tonglis series of ink paintings began as a way to cope with his fathers long battle with heart disease, to which he succumbed after several surgeries and numerous hospital stays. Constantly conversing with doctors, and poring over charts and illustrations of human arteries and veins, Tongli began to incorporate the imagery of blood vessels into his artwork, where they evolved into a dense, layered labyrinth of interweaving colored lines. Painting with a traditional Chinese brush, his webs of overlapping lines become evocative of landscapes, natural root systems, or coral formations that seem to extend infinitely. Extremely labor-intensive, the artist views his work as an exercise in patience, and actively tries to enjoy the physical labor involved with his creation process. Mindful of the spiritual connotations in his meditative approach to painting, Lao Tongli tries to find freedom and nirvana through his work.