Critics’ Picks

View of “Lu Yang: Kimo Kawa Cancer Babies,” 2014.


Lu Yang

Ren Space 仁庐
No.10, Lane 133, Shang Wen Road, Huang Pu District 上海市黄浦区尚文路133弄10号
April 12 - June 11

For her debut solo exhibition at Ren Space, Shanghai native Lu Yang presents a new multimedia dreamscape that features an army of nauseatingly adorable cancer cell protagonists in videos, plush toys, figurines, paintings, and screenprints. The show’s conceptual centerpiece, Cancer Baby (all works 2014), is a gaudy video installation, in which a singing and dancing cancer cell lightheartedly chirps about the essential futility of the human struggle, while inviting viewers to sing along with various slogans, including, “Mommy, daddy, please don’t kill us.”

The rest of the exhibition stems from this video and echoes its characters, colors, and content. For instance, in Centro C-Ball, the artist offers two large tumorous baubles dangling from the ceiling, and countless cancer cell figurines are strewn across four glass cabinets for C-Baby Toy. Exploiting aesthetics of disgust and nausea, Lu negotiates moral boundaries here by emphasizing that expelling cancer is akin to expelling a part of the self. Kimo Kawa Babies, five figurines depicting human organs such as the heart and the bladder, exemplifies this. Each figurine is equipped with an agonized face, as one or two cancer cells ravish its surface. Though almost comical in appearance, the objects’ matte visceral exteriors, which are enhanced by hues of fleshy mauve, are uncomfortable to behold. The cancer cells blend seamlessly with each organ, seemingly at one with the host.

The show’s playful superficiality is coupled with an infectious optimism about the very real threat of cancer and human mortality. Lu’s Technicolor attempt at leading the viewer on a cathartic journey is often underscored by a central message—one tirelessly depicted, sung, and imprinted upon the viewer—to “love.” Whether such an ambitious goal can be achieved in the framework of a commercial gallery show remains to be seen.