Critics’ Picks

Wang Luyan, Sawing or being sawed - Revolving Madonna Litta D-10-06, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 118 x 78 3/4”.

Wang Luyan, Sawing or being sawed - Revolving Madonna Litta D-10-06, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 118 x 78 3/4”.


Wang Luyan

Parkview Green Art Gallery & Exhibition Hall 芳草地画廊 展览馆
No.9, Dongdaqiao Road, Chaoyang District
March 24–June 23, 2013

Wang Luyan is Chinese contemporary art’s Zeno: He thrives on paradoxes. Even the title of Wang’s large-scale solo exhibition of recent work, “Diagramming Allegory,” suggests an internal contradiction. Housed primarily within two long exhibition spaces atop a shopping center, the show collars visitors with its theatrics before confronting them with a stalemate of reciprocal aggression.

In one hall, an oversize steel revolver, W Fire at Both Ends Automatic Handgun D13-01, 2013, has been reengineered to shoot in both directions; every action simultaneously triggers its opposite. A large painting on an adjacent wall, W Six Party Wrist Watch D13-01, 2013, reminiscent of Francis Picabia’s machinist works, depicts the face of a modified wristwatch whose interlocking gears dramatize the geopolitical maneuvers of the six-party talks that sought to diffuse North Korea’s nuclear aspirations, reflecting an unstoppable cycle of violence and vengeance.

In the other hall, large Doric columns flank The Church D11-02, 2011, a multipaneled, panoramic painting of a gothic cathedral’s silver interior seen from an otherwise impossible perspective: The razor-wire parquet and burgundy carpeting of the chapel’s floor extend from the work’s surface to cover the ground throughout the gallery. Nearby, paintings based on icons from both Christianity (Michelangelo’s Genesis) and Renaissance-era humanism (da Vinci’s Mona Lisa) are set into the wall like altarpieces, but their subjects now reveal an uncanny side. The original paintings’ familiar figures are comprised entirely of interlocking, circular saw blades. This combination of visual elements evokes a place where androids might worship after conquering humans and remaking the world (and our art) in their own frightening image. In this exhibition, Wang describes fundamental systems of belief as inherently brutal, self-defeating, or outmoded by “our industrial era.” We built the robots. They won the war.