5 Exhibitions to see in Beijing in January 2017

Art Radar selects five shows not to miss in Beijing as 2017 starts.

From Li Songsong’s latest solo at Pace to Li Gang’s at Galerie Urs Meile and the academic exhibition at Today Art Museum, Beijing’s art scene offers a great variety of exhibitions running until as far as March 2017.

Li Songsong, 'Beihai', 2016, acrylic on board, 360 x 600 x 66 cm. © 2016 Li Songsong. Image courtesy Pace Beijing.

Li Songsong, ‘Beihai’, 2016, acrylic on board, 360 x 600 x 66 cm. © 2016 Li Songsong. Image courtesy Pace Beijing.

1. Li Songsong: “Beihai” — Pace Beijing (10 December 2016 – 11 February 2017)

Best known for deconstructed images drawn from historical photos, using thickly applied paint, artist Li Songsong embarks onto unchartered territory and adds two new bodies of work for his sixth solo show at Pace Gallery. The first series draws inspiration from archery, which in ancient times was regarded as conducive to one’s moral development. The artist uses a paintbrush on an arrow to shoot at aluminium and wood panels creating a variety of unexpected results. Highlights of the show are two large format works named after a former imperial garden northwest of the Forbidden City, Beihai. In Beihai the audience can readily recognise the park’s large body of water and the White Pagoda atop the highest point. Using a map rather than an image, his work is even more sculptural as his concern is with the topography of the place. Whereas in Beihai II he continues with his characteristic thick impasto paint, in Beihai he achieves three dimensionality through the use of raised elements.

Liang Ban, 'Evening Ramble', 2016, aluminium structure, UV flatbed, print on woodboard and specimen parrot, 394 x 685 x 11 cm. Image courtesy Nooshfar Afnan.

Liang Ban, ‘Evening Ramble’, 2016, aluminium structure, UV flatbed, print on woodboard and specimen parrot, 394 x 685 x 11 cm. Image courtesy Nooshfar Afnan.

2. Liang Ban: “Landscape Browser” — de Sarthe Gallery Beijing (9 December 2016 – 26 February 2017)

Liang Ban’s first solo exhibition at de Sarthe Gallery, curated by Bao Dong, shows newly created works that encompass installation, video and spray paint. He continues a conversation that began with the Hand of God series about the connotations and implications of landscape and how it is portrayed as a social commodity today. The artist questions the “purity” of landscape and our interaction with it, which is usually mediated through a mobile phone. Taking over a large part of the gallery space is the installation entitled Evening Ramble recreating the Mount Rushmore National Memorial covered in dirt and bird droppings created by a live parrot atop of it on opening day. The three-channel video Stars projects images of flags from all over the world. The room gradually darkens and all that is left for us to see are the stars on the flags, reminding us of the night stars we all live under, a symbol of our common humanity.

Li Gang, 'Desserts', 2015, plaster, rebar, hair, discarded kettles and pots, 32 pieces, sizes vary from 43 x 30 x 30 cm to 85 x 78 x 78 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne.

Li Gang, ‘Desserts’, 2015, plaster, rebar, hair, discarded kettles and pots, 32 pieces, sizes vary from 43 x 30 x 30 cm to 85 x 78 x 78 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne.

3. “Li Gang” — Galerie Urs Meile Beijing (5 November 2016 – 19 February 2017)

In this solo-show Li Gang shows six different bodies of works. Among them are his sculptures entitled Desserts (2015), made of plaster, discarded pots and pans, and hair of migrant workers. Plaster allows for flexibility of shape, whereas the hair stabilises the form and avoids cracks. This is symbolic of the issue of the importance yet invisible role that migrant workers play. Even though they constitute part of the fabric that makes up today’s Chinese society their role is often marginalised. The entanglement of the iron bars with jade armbands in the series Gravity (2016) is an allusion to the interdependence and sometimes difficult relationships among migrant families as they live far away from their homes. Cube Sugar (2016) seals off in simple building materials old iron gates, which the artist considers violent in essence. Over time the rust still seeps through to the surface, revealing its original outline.

"BRIC-á-brac The Jumble of Growth", 10 December 2016 - 5 March 2017, Today Art Museum, Beijing. Image courtesy Nooshfar Afnan.

“BRIC-á-brac The Jumble of Growth”, 10 December 2016 – 5 March 2017, Today Art Museum, Beijing. Image courtesy Nooshfar Afnan.

4. “BRIC-á-brac The Jumble of Growth” — Today Art Museum (10 Dec 2016 – 5 March 2017)

For its third annual international academic exhibition “Today’s Documents” Today Art Museum presents a large-scale exhibition that has been in the making for the past six years. Co-curated by Chinese Huang Du and Cuban Gerardo Mosquera, the show encompasses the works of 50 artists from a variety of countries, among which the most prominently represented are the BRICS countries. The show addresses the role that art can play in emerging economies in the time of globalisation, and how art deals with the changes and conflicts between different cultures. For example, Chinese contemporary artist Gao Weigang’s large stainless steel and titanium installation Consume (2014), shaped like an over-expanded human stomach, is an allegory to the excessive consumerism brought about by globalisation. Iraqi Kurdish Jamal Penjweny documents in his video Another Life (2010) how smugglers desperate to make a living risk their lives to smuggle alcohol that comes from as far as Russia and Scotland between Iran and Iraq.

Jian Ce , "The Grand Illusion", 17 December - 20 January 2017, White Space Beijing. Image courtesy the artist and White Space Beijing.

Jian Ce , “The Grand Illusion”, 17 December – 20 January 2017, White Space Beijing. Image courtesy the artist and White Space Beijing.

5. Jian Ce: “The Grand Illusion” — White Space Beijing (17 December 2016 – 20 January 2017)

In her fourth solo show at White Space Beijing, Jian Ce shows works executed in 2016 consisting of paintings as well as an installation. In the series of paintings entitled Guided Tour, the artist has taken well-known paintings and created distorted versions. The audience is guided to stand at a specific angle where the work can be seen in a natural state. However once the viewer stands right in front of the painting it becomes distorted. With this body of work Jian Ce proposes the obsolete function of portrait or landscape painting as executed in days past. In New Folks the artist addresses the issue of the “other”. Portraits of sitters in poses alluding to social status have added elements of the grotesque or the exaggerated, drawing attention to our prejudices, the increase in xenophobia and stereotyping of the “other”. One woman wearing a niqab is especially timely for this Berlin and Beijing-based artist, as Europe faces many challenges due to the global refugee crisis.

Nooshfar Afnan

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Related Topics: West Asian artistsChinese artists, gallery shows, museum shows, listsevent alertevents in Beijing

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