For an artist who made his name by
making himself disappear amid supermarkets, tourist attractions, and icons of
art in his “Hiding in the City” series, Liu Bolin
latest exhibition, “A
,” at New York’s Klein Sun Gallery
anything but blend in.
The show is filled with the types of
brightly colored branding that is ubiquitous on everything from junk food
wrappers to magazine covers. Labels—usually so uniform and crisply printed—are
rendered in awkward acrylic paint on aluminum sculptures. The artist’s hand is clearly
evident, turning the familiar into something childlike and even unsettling.
Collaged together, the calculated marketing of these unhealthy items becomes
apparent through their similarities. These sculptures take two forms: colossal
fists and life-sized sculptures of the artist. While his technique is similar
the impact of each could not be more different.
The fists, which look to be punching
the gallery floor, offer images of protest (or, conversely, oppression). In the
other sculptures, Bolin poses with his arms up as though going through an
airport-security search. Here his figure is vulnerable, exposed, and freely
turning himself over to authority.
In his sculptures, paintings, and
photographs (themselves a combination of photography, painting, and
performance) the artist makes a cheeky yet harsh commentary on consumer culture
along with the unbridled development of his native China. Globalization is
apparent—after all, the logo on Lay’s potato chip packages are the same
familiar yellow and red around the world despite the language they’re printed
in. But Bolin’s statement goes beyond “big business is bad.” Finding
inspiration in the Taoist idea of the “unity of man and nature,” he confronts
the viewer with the ways we poison ourselves from processed foods with no
nutritional value to the obsessive quest for money and fame. “Like food feed[s] man’s body, these dazzling
headlines or made-up events are feed for thoughts,” Bolin has said
of the magazines that
appear in many of his works. “They enter then into the realm of collective
memory. In truth we consume ourselves. ”
In hiding himself amid the very
things mankind has created to placate one another, Bolin forces us to stop
being complacent and take a look back at ourselves.