Critics’ Picks

Yang Xinguang, Sharp Point (detail), 2012, wood, dimensions variable.

Yang Xinguang, Sharp Point (detail), 2012, wood, dimensions variable.


“Groundwork Community”

Taikang Space 泰康空间
Red No.1-B2, Caochangdi, CuigezhuangChaoyang District Chaoyang District
June 27–August 17, 2013

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 background, complemented by a small monitor with its screen pressed against the wall. The video actually depicts the artist as she struggles to maneuver a large, heavy wooden plank in front of a backdrop. The dejected monitor plays a DVD documenting this process, but Hu doesn’t allow us to view it: a reminder that we often remain ignorant regarding what others endure, despite our best attempts at empathy. Similarly, Wang Sishun’s Uncertain Capital No. 6, 2012, which resembles a shrunken Tony Smith sculpture, was made by melting down and casting ten thousand one-yuan coins—the amount for which the project’s last iteration, Uncertain Capital No. 5, 2009, was sold. As the series evolves, the work’s size increases in proportion to its growing market value, a process whose clarity threatens to render the usual follies of art pricing patently absurd.

With their pared-down aesthetic characterized by unadorned, simple forms (cubes are popular) and an austere palette that borders on gray scale, the works in “Groundwork Community” simultaneously dissemble and hint at the pain, mystery, violence, and biting critical concerns that stir just beneath their monastic surfaces. Call it post-Minimalism with Chinese characteristics. It is precisely this open secret that makes the exhibition so engaging.