David Spalding

  • picks August 06, 2013

    “Light Before Dawn: Unofficial Chinese Art 1974–1985”

    One evening during the winter of 1974, amid the repressive chaos of China’s Cultural Revolution, a group of artists risked persecution to present their works to one another. At a Beijing apartment chosen for its dark corridors—to shield participants from the neighborhood committee’s constant surveillance—some fifteen members of the No Name group defiantly unveiled their clandestine creations. Many of these small, innocuous paintings of shaded parks and snow-capped temples are on view in “Light Before Dawn,” which brings together over one hundred rarely seen works from three art groups: the No

  • picks August 01, 2013

    “Groundwork Community”

    Walking through “Groundwork Community”—a surgically precise, seven-artist exhibition on view at the Beijing nonprofit Taikang Space—feels at times like scrutinizing a classified document filled with visible redactions: tantalizing. Each of the show’s recent sculptures, videos, installations, and works on paper has something to hide, but because this fact is immediately evident, the process of decoding and discovery begins.

    Take Hu Xiaoyun’s video installation See, 2012, which comprises a projection of what appears to be the meditative play of a white, vertical plane shifting against a white

  • picks May 13, 2013

    Wang Luyan

    Wang Luyan is Chinese contemporary art’s Zeno: He thrives on paradoxes. Even the title of Wang’s large-scale solo exhibition of recent work, “Diagramming Allegory,” suggests an internal contradiction. Housed primarily within two long exhibition spaces atop a shopping center, the show collars visitors with its theatrics before confronting them with a stalemate of reciprocal aggression.

    In one hall, an oversize steel revolver, W Fire at Both Ends Automatic Handgun D13-01, 2013, has been reengineered to shoot in both directions; every action simultaneously triggers its opposite. A large painting on

  • Song Kun

    A founding member of the N12 group—twelve ambitious young graduates of Beijing’s prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts who have been organizing their own annual exhibitions—Song Kun was educated after the Cultural Revolution and raised in an era of accelerated urban and economic development. As a result, she and her compatriots are articulating new visual languages to express concerns that are less overtly political than those of their predecessors. Song’s first solo exhibition, amounting to a visual diary whose pages lined the gallery’s walls, reflects this shift of focus.

    Held at Universal

  • picks December 19, 2006

    “New York, Interrupted”

    In a deliberate move to establish itself as a global art venue, Seoul’s PKM Gallery invited New Museum curator Dan Cameron to organize the inaugural exhibition at its new outpost in Beijing. “New York, Interrupted” offers Beijing audiences their first glimpse of recent works by seventeen of New York’s most promising artists, including Cory Arcangel, Robert Boyd, Jason Middlebrook, and Wangechi Mutu, none of whom have ever shown in China before. Though the exhibition’s title refers to the September 11 attacks, connective tissue is sparse, with only a generalized state of anxiety about living in

  • Ai Weiwei

    “History,” Ai Weiwei has said, “is the missing piece of the puzzle in everything we do.” The same could be said about Ai himself, whose work as an artist, curator, editor, and architect has been a driving force behind the development of experimental Chinese art for over twenty years. Remarkably, “Fragments,” presented in Galerie Urs Meile’s new Beijing exhibition space (which Ai designed), is the artist’s first solo exhibition in China.

    Ai’s art has largely been defined by his use of historically charged materials, disfigured and reconfigured to create iconoclastic sculptures and installations.

  • picks August 08, 2006

    Chen Qiulin

    Since 1993, the Three Gorges Dam project has flooded thousands of villages along the Yangtze River, forcing the relocation of approximately 1.2 million people—the largest such migration in human history. Chen Qiulin, a young Chengdu-based artist whose hometown was among those submerged, has spent the last few years making videos, photographs, and installations that poetically document the dam’s effects. “Migration,” her first solo exhibition in Beijing, is a melancholic memorial dedicated to her loss.

    It is also an act of resistance. Rather than let a town in Sichuan Province fall prey to

  • picks April 17, 2006

    Wang Jianwei

    Wang Jianwei is one of Beijing’s most philosophically inclined artists. For his latest three-part installation, Relativism: A Flying Bird is Motionless, 2005, Wang uses video, digital photography, and sculpture to raise questions about temporality and the telling of history. With the cinematic styling and riveting score of a big-budget martial-arts film, the video is the exhibition’s anchor. Rooted in a climactic chapter of a famous Song Dynasty tale (Yanjiajiang), it depicts a fierce battle scene in which a band of heroic brothers are slaughtered. During the last forty years, the story has

  • Second Guangzhou Triennial

    While the First Guangzhou Triennial, in 2002, provided viewers with a sweeping overview of creative output by the so-called first generation of China’s avant-garde artists, the second is an attempt to reconfigure the relationship between the triennial and its context. Integral to the exhibition is the museum’s location in the Pearl River Delta, or PRD, a cluster of southern Chinese cities, including Shenzhen and Guangzhou, that have experienced a wild growth spurt since the ’70s and whose congested urban sprawl represents both opportunity and decadence. To facilitate exchanges among artists,

  • Li Songsong

    If certain photographs are the basis for collective memory, can effacing these images free us from the grasp of history? Li Songsong’s exhibition “Works: 2001–2004” charted his recent evolution as he circles around this central question. Born in 1973, Li is part of a generation of artists who did not experience Mao’s China firsthand but whose work addresses the afterimages of Communist spectacle. Based on archival photographs, Li’s paintings translate well-known moments—Communist Party celebrations, military and diplomatic photo ops—into elegant experiments in disavowal.

    Though deploying emblems

  • “The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America, 1880–1920: Design for the Modern World”

    Exploding the notion of a singular Arts and Crafts ethos, this exhibition is the first to demonstrate how the movement was customized for a variety of regional agendas. The show features more than three hundred objects and two re-created interiors and includes an impressive array of furniture, ceramics, metalwork, textiles, and prints. While good design today seems only a trip to Target away, the integration of art and life promised by the Arts and Crafts movement has exceeded our grasp. And while this show may reconsider the material culture of an earlier era, the questions