Robin Peckham

  • passages June 16, 2017

    Ren Hang (1987–2017)

    REN HANG, WHOSE PICTURES PROMISED a now that felt like it would last forever, whose personal presence mirrored the undying present he created for his work, is gone. Flipping through his photobooks now feels not like an act of memorial so much as the reliving of a recent memory of something that may yet come to pass again. Ren will be consigned to history only with great difficulty, as his pictures fight to remain in the moment. The brilliance of his practice lay in the way he could persist in doing variations on one thing over and over again—photographing the nude bodies of young people in

  • picks August 26, 2016

    Yu Honglei

    Yu Honglei frames his work in Platonic universals: It’s about flattening the architecture he lives in, the popular media he consumes, and the art history he has studied into a single plane of forms and ideas that coalesce into a practice.

    Perhaps this is what every artist does in principle, but it’s rare to see one who enjoys working with such playful intellectual purity. It’s refreshing that this body of work comes without a mission statement, and more than a little fun to guess at the semiotic connections between sculptures and their seemingly nonsensical titles. In this exhibition, Yu positions

  • Yang Fudong

    Yang Fudong is an auteur. His invention of a filmic culture for the Chinese art world—that special milieu in which the intelligentsia and the nouveau riche have met on and off since the early twentieth century—casts everyone who comes in contact with his project, from actors and collaborating artists to collectors and other viewers, in roles on the theatrical stage that defines his approach to the screen.

    The most resonant works here took the viewer beyond the diegetic confines of Yang’s cinematic universe and captured the backstage of his productions, where a psychological study of

  • “Advance Through Retreat”

    “New ink art,” the quasi-traditional painting practice that has enjoyed a critical and commercial resurgence over the past two years, is one side of an awareness of tradition that has never been far out of view in Chinese contemporary art. Although the notion of tradition offered one of the few alternatives to the politics of dissidence that had become the dominant mode of critical currency by the early 1990s in the mainland, it seems to have been forgotten these days that the ’85 New Wave, which preceded the market-driven movements of Political Pop and Cynical Realism, marked a reaction against

  • picks May 09, 2014

    Zhang Hui

    Zhang Hui is a painter who works in tight cycles, spending months or years on a particular subject or in a particular style before moving on. His cycles can be so distinct and so diverse that they appear, at times, as if they are the work of different artists altogether—a product of his close relationship to the conceptual milieu that congealed around the “Post-Sense Sensibility” exhibitions in the late 1990s and produced other prodigious artists such as Jiang Zhi, Liu Wei, and Qiu Zhijie.

    In his most recent cycle, Zhang works primarily in a seductive palette of indigo and white highlighted by

  • picks April 11, 2014

    “Memo II”

    As the plasma of energetic young art in Beijing and its feeder cities congeals around multiple discrete positions, at least four rival factions join the melee in this exhibition. The highest-profile subculture on view could be called conceptual painting (accompanied here by its de rigueur installation elements): Gao Lei, for instance, has connected a beehive, by way of metal tubing, to an astronaut in an armchair—the latter image a separate painting. Elsewhere, Yang Dongxue pairs a framed drawing with a motorized device of uncertain function. Largely flaccid and predictable, both these “combines”

  • Singapore Biennale 2011

    The Third Singapore Biennale, titled “Open House” and organized by curators Trevor Smith and Russell Storer under the creative direction of Matthew Ngui, attempted to delineate concepts of home and process within artistic practice. As an exhibition, it evinced a decidedly populist bent: Much of the work installed at the biennial’s five venues—the Singapore Art Museum and its satellite sam at 8Q, the National Museum of Singapore, the Old Kallang Airport, and Marina Bay—felt familiar, purportedly attempting to offer a broad view of global art for local audiences, with catalogue texts

  • picks May 18, 2011

    Tsang Tsou-choi

    First coming to global attention with the “Zone of Urgency” exhibition organized by Hou Hanru for the Venice Biennale in 2003, the late outsider street artist Tsang Tsou-choi is a biding and influential presence in Hong Kong contemporary art, his work marking, for some, the beginning of an interventionist poststudio practice shared by many internationally operating artists in the territory today. Done in his distinctive style of brush and pen calligraphy, still found at several sites throughout the city, his scrawlings typically begin by asserting his identity as the emperor of the Kowloon

  • picks November 30, 2010

    Nadim Abbas

    For his first major solo exhibition, Nadim Abbas has transformed a small exhibition space hidden down an alley and behind a building into a singular environment of optical effect based on the collapsed figure of the shower-as-waterfall. Prevented from moving closer by a horizontal steel bar positioned just inside the entrance, the viewer sees a freestanding wall of white tile and, mounted on the wall, a shower fixture spewing water that collects in a pool on the floor below. White shower curtains hang on either side, dulling the glare of spotlights that illuminate the environment from the rear,

  • picks November 10, 2010

    Lu Yang

    Lu Yang, a young artist working in digital and organic media, has rocketed to prominence due to this unlikely combination of interests. She is a darling of the nascent Chinese new-media art scene, with previous exhibitions in many of Shanghai’s major contemporary art institutions, and her manga-influenced two-dimensional work has also been well received in design circles. This major solo show gathers much of her output from the past several years, revealing that Lu is an artist balanced precipitously at the intersection of multiple distinct discourses.

    This exhibition is very much a young

  • picks October 27, 2010

    Liu Chuang

    A central figure of Shenzhen’s art scene, Liu Chuang has not exhibited new work since moving to Beijing in 2008. Understandably, his participation in “51sqm,” the ongoing series of small solo presentations sponsored by the nonprofit organization Taikang Space, has been met with some excitement. His project here is spare, consisting of just two pieces that fail to introduce his overall trajectory to a broader audience. Yet the opportunity to observe the directions in which Liu has been working during his hiatus from public life is exhilarating.

    Untitled: History of Sweat, 2004, involves an air

  • picks August 06, 2010

    Michael Lee

    The relationship between architecture and art has been consistently tense since sculpture descended from the plinth, even when not dissected via the Klein group diagram à la Rosalind Krauss. As architects increasingly lean toward installation as a method of conceptual expression, renderings appear more and more like digital art; meanwhile, artists are reflecting on the forms of the built environment with little apprehension. The middle ground between sculpture and architecture has become ripe for rumination––particularly in greater China, where building practices reshape living environments at

  • picks March 11, 2010

    “The Tell-Tale Heart”

    Very rarely does an exhibition that consists solely of video art succeed in convincing its audience to sit through each and every piece on display. “The Tell-Tale Heart,” however, does just that and works its magic through an allegorical reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s classic suspenseful short story. Housed in a darkened colonial mansion replete with historic painted moldings, the show insists on the paranormal as a communication strategy, enticing moving images into fruitful dialogues with one another across the gallery spaces.

    The standout work here is the single-channel video Rock Dove, 2009,

  • picks February 18, 2010

    “Make Over”

    As Shanghai prepares for the World Expo, some corners of the art world have launched a critically reflective resistance similar to the actions of the Beijing underground during the Olympics two years ago. Though it does not reject recent transformations in the local urban fabric as aggressively as do certain less visible projects, this small group exhibition offers a range of useful perspectives on the evolution of an oddly situated metropolis; Shanghai, once half-colonized by foreign powers, now plays a crucial role in the relationship between aesthetics, politics, and control.

    Arguably most

  • picks December 17, 2009

    “Permanent Migrants”

    Located between a village and a shopping mall, “Permanent Migrants,” the inaugural exhibition in this pop-up alternative space, appropriately reflects the conditions of contemporary art production in Shenzhen throughout its brief history. A retrospective of an entire city should be a daunting task, and indeed this project is far from complete. Nevertheless, the artists who made Shenzhen their home, however briefly, seem to share a particular sensibility, veering between the public and the private in an attempt to define and intervene in the urban condition.

    Work exhibited by many of the best-known