Critics’ Picks

Feng Menbo, M Shot0399, 2012, pigment, acrylic, and archive-grade ink-jet on canvas, 47 1/4 x 29 1/2".

Feng Menbo, M Shot0399, 2012, pigment, acrylic, and archive-grade ink-jet on canvas, 47 1/4 x 29 1/2".

Beijing

Feng Mengbo

Chambers Fine Art | Beijing 前波画廊
Red No.1-D, Caochangdi
September 15–October 28, 2012

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 is already well known for his engagement with video games as readymade vehicles for narrative—such as in 2008’s Long March: Restart. So these works ostensibly display a newfound interest in traditional art media like painting and drawing, and the several ink-jet paintings and works on paper displayed here suggest this shift as well.

Yet “Not Too Late” is not so much about the conflict between different media as it is about the points of similarity between them. Rather than asking whether the traditional can cleave to the digital, Feng’s video and Chinese calligraphy actually share an interest in technique. By drawing a comparison between the time-honed skills of a consummate gamer with those of a master calligrapher, Feng suggests that there is a connoisseurship of digital media that runs parallel to that which has motivated aesthetes across the ages.