Lee Ambrozy

  • picks February 22, 2011

    “Beijing Voice: Together or Isolated”

    Intended to inaugurate an annual tradition, this exhibition seems by its mere title to assert the cultural cogency of a creative wave emanating from Beijing. The assertion has the distinct feeling of a contemporary and Eastern version of the swell in art in postwar New York. Coming dangerously close to a yearbook show for the Pace Beijing franchise, Beijing proves to be the ever-precarious muse. Dominating the room, Song Dong’s Hu Tong (all works cited, 2010) is a romantic interpretation of the narrow walls in classic Beijing alleyways, while Shi Jinsong’s Beigao Village 525, A3, and A4 sculptures

  • 8th Shanghai Biennale

    The Shanghai Biennale is charged with a significant task: to harmonize the expectations of professional and international audiences with the tastes of a broader local public, all while conforming to Ministry of Culture’s requirements. By the time its eighth incarnation opened last year, the biennial had a reputation as China’s most significant international art show, the most important benchmark for China’s role in the global art-cultural sphere. This prominence was reflected last year in a new opening date, in October, that intentionally distanced the biennial from the commercial influence of

  • diary December 29, 2010

    Back to the Land

    OUR CRACKED LIPS were just beginning to moisten when our small Beijing delegation arrived in Thailand for the unveiling of Chinese artist Lin Yilin’s project Whose Land? The two-part series, exhibited in Bangkok and the Land, a well-known artist colony outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand, was curated by Josef Ng and sponsored by Lin’s gallery, Tang Contemporary. At the Land, the answer to Lin’s titular question was obvious. “Rirkrit [Tiravanija] and I bought the land,” artist Kamin Lertchaiprasert said of the Land Foundation. “We thought it would be a retirement home.”

    Beijing might call out to

  • picks November 28, 2010

    Gu Wenda, Zhou Yi, “West Heavens”

    Ink traditions may lay fallow in the contemporary art world, but consecutive openings of two retrospectives by Gu Wenda (at Yan Huang Art Museum in Beijing, of early works in a literati style, and at He Xiangning Art Museum in Shenzhen, of experimental ink on paper), plus a solo exhibition at Shenzhen’s OCT Contemporary Art Terminal of work informed by literati traditions (lots of human hair––either braided or ground into fine powder resembling ink), flirted with an ink revival. The exhibitions were followed by a symposium on experimental ink painting, held at the University of Chicago’s new

  • diary September 03, 2010

    In Da Club

    STRIPES WITH PLAID (or checks, or flowers . . . ) are sometimes just more of a good thing. Zhang Da, one of China’s rare self-funded fashion designers—already well known for his flat-cut “O-shirt,” two discs sewn together with holes for arms and head and so forth—took pattern-clash to the extreme on Sunday, August 15. Beijing’s fashionistas, who keep up with local design and architecture cliques, gathered over weak tea and hot water served in stainless steel cups in a side room of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art for the fastest fashion moment in the East, the launch of Zhang’s 2010

  • interviews July 15, 2010

    Elaine W. Ho

    As the initiator of HomeShop, a tiny storefront collaborative art space in central Beijing, Elaine W. Ho has recently designed and published the second edition of WEAR, a journal stemming from the activities of the local community. HomeShop is an evolving open platform for community-based art practice, and it is located within one of Beijing’s unique urban alleyways, the hutongs, whose compact, ancient design often naturally blurs the boundaries between public and private. The second and latest edition of the journal examines the broad question, what is cultural exchange?


  • interviews May 03, 2010

    Cai Guo-Qiang

    Concurrent with the opening of the 2010 Shanghai Expo, Cai Guo-Qiang has invited more than fifty rural engineers to display their homemade submarines, airplanes, and various robotic creations in “Peasant Da Vincis,” the inaugural exhibition of the Rockbund Art Museum. Cai began collecting peasant-made works in 2005 and has traveled extensively through the countryside to document these objects and their creators, whose stories will also be on display. The show runs May 4–July 25.

    ALL OF THE PEASANTS will come for the opening reception of this show, including Wu Shuzai, who made a wooden helicopter;

  • picks April 08, 2010

    Yin Xiuzhen

    Yin Xiuzhen’s works have been accorded femininity for the “soft” nature of her signature material: reclaimed fabrics from secondhand clothes. But the artist’s womanly virtues perhaps culminate in her “enterable” spaces, whose employ seems to have reached a crescendo in Collective Subconscious, 2007, currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art. For the piece, viewers are invited to step inside a patchwork caterpillar adjoining two ends of a nostalgic Chinese “breadbox car,” a minibus whose colorful interior, scattered with bar stools, invites communal experiences. In Beijing, Yin’s recent

  • picks December 02, 2009

    Li Ming

    Eleven videos and sporadic accoutrements litter the floor of this exhibition by the emerging artist Li Ming. A television, cast in the bushes outside the gallery entrance, screens Back Garden, 2008, in which security guards, recurring characters in the artist’s vignettes, romp around the gardens of a residential compound in unintelligible acts of “play.”

    The folly continues indoors, where the atmosphere turns to one of extreme irrationality and even perturbation. Li’s works fall into the category of absurd realism; he sets the parameters for the semi-orchestrated madness and compulsive behaviors

  • Wang Gongxin

    Tucked away near the Confucius Temple, in one of Beijing’s most quickly gentrifying neighborhoods, lies the antidote to the ostentatious exhibitions that have slowly become the norm in the city’s urban fringes. This latest work from Beijing native Wang Gongxin, It’s Not About the Neighbors, 2009, is such an unexpected encounter with art that you might just pass it by.

    Hosting Wang’s work is the Arrow Factory, a storefront nonprofit art space founded last spring by an international group of artists and curators. Next door, a small family bakery does a brisk sale of flatbreads, stuffed cakes, and

  • Won Ju Lim

    For 24 Seconds of Silence, 2008, Korea-born, Los Angeles–based artist Won Ju Lim charted her reactions to Beijing—a city completely foreign to her, recently under intense international media scrutiny, and burdened by a full arsenal of preconceived notions. The work was commissioned by the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, arguably China’s most globally high-profile art space. Rapidly adapting to that country’s Wild West art market, during the twelve months since it opened, the UCCA has functioned as museum, gallery, and sophisticated venue for luxury product launches. Lim’s installation

  • picks September 16, 2008


    Chinese culture is steeped in delicate intimations sometimes so slight they can be easily missed. In “Subtlety,” curator Karen Smith presents a thoughtful selection of nine Chinese artists—of divergent generations, media, and creative thought processes—who demonstrate this historical refinement. Wang Wei creates site-specific installations that transform their exhibition spaces. For this exhibition, he has enlarged a dozen pieces of the tiny furniture used in real estate mock-ups. These life-size wardrobes and kitchen sets have an odd effect on the space, causing double takes. The artificiality

  • picks June 19, 2008

    Liang Yuanwei

    In this exhibition, the sometimes-dense compositions and concentrated colors of Liang Yuanwei’s canvases nicely contrast with the cool, spacious gallery that houses them. On display are twelve large paintings and fourteen smaller renditions of the same patterns, all from the series “A Piece of Life” and completed in the last year and a half. Each painting is dominated by a pattern, thoughtfully chosen from among the artist’s garments or selected from the many objects surrounding her—a sofa, curtains, swatches of cloth. Repeated evenly for the full length of the canvas, the flowers, spots, and,

  • picks March 20, 2008

    Qiu Xiaofei

    It may be the relative lack of installation work in China that makes Qiu Xiaofei’s current exhibition seem especially satisfying. Or perhaps one can read Xiaofei’s work as a clever twist on the medium of painting, undoubtedly the most popular one among contemporary Chinese artists. In “House of Recollected Fragments,” he remakes objects as his own by painting them, as in his earlier work, but this time viewers are dwarfed by his vision. Xiaofei’s third exhibition in as many years is essentially an extension of previous themes—objects of nostalgia, childhood memories, and dreams are transformed

  • picks November 28, 2007

    Li Dafang

    Industrial detritus litters the photorealist world of Li Dafang’s canvases. Crumbling white tiled buildings (perhaps a metaphor for the sad state of architecture in China), as well as weeds, iron grates, and impossibly stacked boxes, populate these absurd and lonesome landscapes. At least one figure is present in each composition, but they seem mere afterthoughts, painted in coarse, vivid brushstrokes that contrast with their delicately hazy settings.

    Li strongly reflects the industrial aesthetic of artists from China’s northeast, though this exhibition represents a departure from his earlier

  • picks October 01, 2007

    Qiu Anxiong

    In a feat consistent with China’s boundless capacity for manual labor, curator Pi Li has relocated a complete train car to the inside of his 21,500-square-foot space for Qiu Anxiong’s exhibition “Staring into Amnesia.” The sole entrance is a house-of-horrors low stairway that funnels visitors into this gloomy train. Inside, twenty-four black-and-white archival film loops unfurl onto the windows, a different projection for each seating compartment. Socialist workers climb mountains in epic infrastructure projects, and the pruned faces of model workers stare back at you, intercut with Qiu’s