Angie Baecker

  • “Rural North China, 1947–1948”

    In today’s People’s Republic of China, little is explicitly Communist, save perhaps the Chinese Communist Party itself. The country’s socialist period is rife with thorny, unprobed complexities, a legacy so fraught and out of step with that of today’s economic ascendancy that it is often completely sidestepped in discussions of China’s contemporary economy and culture. Yet even if its influence may not always be evident, the Communist legacy continues to inform the very structure of Chinese society.

    A recent exhibition of photographs from rural northern China in the period between the end of

  • picks February 08, 2013

    “ON | OFF”

    “ON | OFF” gathers fifty mainland Chinese artists born after 1976, a watershed year marked in the collective consciousness by Mao’s death and the end of the Cultural Revolution. Similar to the New Museum’s Generational, this vast exhibition aims to survey China’s young artists in concept and practice, and in a definitive fashion. Curators Sun Dongdong and Bao Dong begin with the conceit that young Chinese artists are often overshadowed by qualifiers like “young” and “Chinese,” which pigeonhole the meanings and densities of their work with about as much subtlety as the distinction between “on”

  • Yung Ho Chang

    When Yung Ho Chang returned to his native Beijing in 1993 after more than a decade of architectural training and practice in the United States, he was confronted by a society in dramatic flux. He found urban conditions and forms of development more easily characterized by absurdity than by habitability—Chen Xitong, for example, the corrupt mayor of Beijing in the 1990s, left a permanent mark on the city by decreeing that all new buildings bear a Chinese-style crown (later dubbed the “Chinese hat”), regardless of structure or design. Chang decided that if absurdity was the new normal, his

  • “On | Off”

    Titled after the interface of a virtual private network used to access websites blocked in China, this survey aims to show the ways in which mainland artists born after 1975 address the binaries that permeate their lives and practices: having access to information or being blocked by the Great Firewall, being a dissident or a stooge, being inside or out, on or off. Most of the fifty pieces on display, including works across various media by Bird Head, Chen Yujun and Chen Yufan, Cheng Ran, Guo Hongwei, Huang Ran, Li Ming, Li Shurui, Liang Yuanwei, Qiu Xiaofei,

  • slant December 30, 2012

    Angie Baecker

    IN A YEAR OF major political transition across the whole of Asia, contemporary art programming was defined by a trend toward metanarrative. In Taiwan, the 2012 edition of the Taipei Biennial was an intellectually exuberant affair that confronted modernity as a global syndrome while also considering Taiwan’s specific position within it. Curated by Anselm Franke and themed “Modern Monsters / Death and Life of Fiction,” the biennial gave voice to narratives marginalized against the juggernaut of a rising mainland China. Kao Chung-Li’s The Way Station Trilogy, 1987–2012, is a video biography of the

  • interviews December 27, 2012

    Paula Tsai

    Paula Tsai is curator of “SEE/SAW: Collective Practice in China Now,” an exhibition on view at the Ullens Center of Contemporary Art until December 30. “SEE/SAW” features fourteen different emerging Chinese collectives that are rotating their work in one-week durations in a dedicated UCCA gallery. The collectives have staged performances, interventions, and mini-exhibitions in the space.

    “SEE/SAW” IS A SERIES OF CONFRONTATIONS. The six-week challenge of showing fourteen collectives in the same space was a rigorous exercise that required continuous dialogue with each group. The idea for the show

  • Taipei Biennial 2012

    In The Monster That Is History, literary scholar David Der-wei Wang considers the taowu, an ancient Chinese monster described as “like a tiger with a human face.” This fiendish beast was made all the more ominous by its divinatory ability to see both past and future. Ancients cautioned others to “remember and recount [the taowu’s] wickedness so as to take precaution,” and eventually the taowu came to be seen as the embodiment of history itself. This, Wang argues, makes it an adept metaphor for both the violence of twentieth-century Chinese history and the literature that seeks to depict it.

    Anselm

  • diary November 26, 2012

    The First Five-Year Plan

    DIVINING HIERARCHY AND POLITICAL WILL from ceremonial detail is an art, and nowhere more so than in China, where the political system is opaque and lives have literally hung in the balance of imperial banquet seating arrangements. So it was the week before last, when Beijing played host to the eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, a scripted political circus that saw Xi Jinping—the ultimate compromiser’s compromiser, if you will—succeed Hu Jintao as grand poobah of the realm. China watchers scrutinized the new leadership’s dress and demeanor for the slightest indicators

  • picks October 17, 2012

    Feng Mengbo

    The title piece of “Not Too Late: Recent Works by Feng Mengbo” is a single-channel video piece accompanied by traditional Chinese music. Its design takes as its starting point the classic multiplayer first-person shooter video game Quake III Arena, but the work employs a Cory Arcangel–esque modification, removing all concrete figural groups from the original and isolating just one element: motion. The resulting video work is made up mostly of black and white arcs of movement that sweep across the projector’s screen and call to mind the abstraction, force, and poetry of Chinese calligraphy. Feng

  • interviews September 03, 2012

    Liu Xiaodong

    Last May, Liu Xiaodong and a team of assistants traveled to Hotan, a town in the Xinjiang region of China, where he painted monumental portraits of local Uyghur jade miners while a documentarian filmed the entire process. The project is on view at the Xinjiang International Exhibition Center in Urumqi from August 25 to October 8, and will travel to the Today Art Museum in Beijing in early 2013.

    I’D NEVER BEEN TO HOTAN before this trip, but I wanted to go there because I’m interested in its jade production. The Chinese have, of course, prized jade for thousands of years. In the past it was the

  • picks June 21, 2012

    Hiroshi Sugimoto

    Hiroshi Sugimoto’s latest exhibition at Pace Beijing is a mini-retrospective of sorts, introducing mainland audiences to the renowned photographer with highlights from six representative series of his works. Sugimoto’s images go long on a highly precise and stylized form derived from different techniques, resulting in large-format works whose outsize scope and vision fills the walls of Pace Beijing’s mammoth Bauhaus-inspired space.

    The show oscillates between Sugimoto’s interest in capturing the trappings of the theatrical (as in his diorama, theater, and wax-figure portrait series), and in

  • picks May 24, 2012

    Yang Fudong

    ShanghART’s Beijing outpost and the adjacent ARTMIA Gallery have given over their spaces to two of Yang Fudong’s majestic and baffling videos: Close to the Sea, 2004, and Revival of the Snake, 2005. Although the works premiered at the 2004 Liverpool Biennial and in 2006 at the Parasol Unit Foundation, respectively, this occasion marks Yang’s first solo exhibition in Beijing and the debut of the two videos in China.

    Each piece is made up of a ten-screen video installation, with eight monitors lining the darkened walls of the room and one hanging in the middle with projections on either side of

  • picks May 05, 2012

    Jennifer Wen Ma

    Jennifer Wen Ma’s Hanging Garden in Ink, 2012, a site-specific commission, offers her latest experiment with the organic properties of mo, or ink. Inspired by the mythical hanging gardens of Babylon—King Nebuchadnezzar II’s offering to his wife who was homesick for trees and mountains—the work is a towering structure of ink-dipped foliage. The plants will continue to grow over the course of their installation in the long, narrow hall, with fresh green shoots sprouting beneath thick layers of black.

    Ma began working with mo several years ago and has now inked all manner of flora: At a solo exhibition

  • Hong Hao

    For the past decade, Hong Hao has made work that deals in the economies and aesthetics of accumulation. “My Things,” a photographic series begun in 2001, is made up of composite images derived from the scanned photographs of the artist’s possessions. The objects range from the mundane to the whimsical—books, toilet paper, passport, pens, wallet, toothpaste, letters, and so on. The effect is both intimate and overwhelming. At the time, the series was read as a statement on excess and contemporary China’s burgeoning material and capitalist culture. One piece in particular, My Things No.

  • Wu Shanzhuan and Inga Svala Thorsdottir

    Wu Shanzhuan and Inga Svala Thorsdottir’s latest exhibition at Long March Space was the couple’s most abstract yet; even the meaning of its title, “Kuo Xuan,” is ambiguous. Ostensibly the romanization of a two-character Chinese word (though the artists have declined to specify which two characters), the term is evocative—in Mandarin, it sounds something like “expanding choices”—but its meaning is unfixed.

    The gallery’s two main halls were given over to seven symbols mapped onto the walls in thin lines of various colors that towered over the viewer, mostly of cochlear spirals ricocheting

  • picks January 11, 2012

    Zhou Zixi

    Zhou Zixi’s “Late Spring and Early Summer” opened in Beijing in the middle of December, long after the warmth of both seasons had been forgotten. The exhibition features twenty-six new oil paintings by Zhou, many of which quietly depict the numbness of urban China’s lived environment.

    The paintings mostly show anonymous urban surroundings, plain enough to lack traces of cosmopolitanism but dense with infrastructure, suggesting the horror of modernization. It Is Said That We Should Look Up to the Sky, 2011, depicts milky sky, only a patch of it visible between the apartment buildings that tower

  • Chen Yufan and Chen Yujun

    “Mulan River Project” was the first collaborative exhibition by the brothers Chen Yufan and Chen Yujun. It took the Mulan River, which runs through the artists’ native city of Putian, in China’s Fujian province, as its creative source. The Mulan is “mother river” to the Putianese, the source of their livelihood and culture, and it played a similarly central role in the Chens’ exhibition, with an installation representing the river made of cardboard and found materials forming the conceptual and architectural core of the show. But the artists’ ongoing “Mulan River Project,” begun in 2007, is more

  • Liu Wei

    “Trilogy,” Liu Wei’s largest solo show to date, was an abstract but ambitious exhibition in which the artist presented a trio of major new works. Where his oeuvre previously leaned toward the conceptual, making sly critical jokes about the psychic state of society, the artist’s more recent works possess a dense aesthetic intelligence that represents a transformation in his practice.

    Each in its own room, the three works that made up the exhibition were Golden Section, 2011, Power, 2011, and Merely a Mistake, 2010. In Golden Section, pieces of furniture are enveloped by heavy sheets of metal,

  • picks August 08, 2011

    Marius Watz

    Marius Watz’s latest exhibition is titled “Automatic Writing,” and this is a good descriptor of his work and the subcommunity to which he belongs. Watz makes generative art, or visual works created on generative systems; he is the Norwegian ringleader of generator.x, an online platform for generative art and design. The show at Superfrog offers videos, sculptures made with three-dimensional printers, laser drawings on plywood, and software-designed patterns that have been projected and then rendered in tape on the walls.

    Each work is fabricated with semiautonomous software systems; the art is

  • picks March 02, 2011

    “Untitled”

    Positioning is essential to every major player in the international art world, and in China, Vitamin Creative Space has consistently placed itself on the periphery. The gallery’s newest Beijing outpost is located in the Central Business District’s Pingod development, far from the miasma of Dashanzi and a good twenty-five floors above the rapidly deteriorating “International Art Street” below. An untitled inaugural show features works by three artists—Cao Fei, Ming Wong, and Pak Sheung Chuen—all exploring the shapes, subjectivites, and legacies of the margin.

    Half-Soul, Half-Body, 2009, by Pak,