In this latest work, a matrix of bamboo holds fast to a heavy cube of cast cement. The two materials, with their vastly opposed properties, coexist in an unconventional manner, their awkward connection seeming to allude to the state of a Chinese society in the midst of rapid transformation. Here, the bamboo conveys two forms of identity. As a sign, it is a carrier of ancient cultural affinities and aesthetics. As a living thing, its green body conveys vivid and concrete tenacity and strength. Under the great weight of the concrete, these two forms, one material and one virtual, come together to awaken the instinctual reverence for life that is rooted deep in the genes of the spectator. The concrete, which serves here as a reference, has had its surface forcefully imprinted with the texture of split bamboo. Here, the artist has utilized the inherent tenacity of life to wrap this symbol of modern society with the fibrous texture of skin.
This exhibition can be seen as a continuation of Xiao Yu’s previous solo exhibition. In the third segment of the 2015 exhibition Oblivion, the artist presented a series of life-themed paintings that provided an individualized response to the dilemmas of contemporary society. Life has been a persistent inner thread concealed within the artist’s oeuvre. In this latest creation, the artist conceals his own insights into life within the highly expressive appearance of bamboo—this primal living thing, with its Eastern traditional aesthetic import, seems to be an inevitable creative choice here. The repeating scene of external force and life’s resistance to it also seems to reference a more deeply concealed emotional thread in the artist’s heart. The massive tension borne of this resistance grows from the sensory level to catalyze the most direct experience and emotional resonance in the viewer.
Xiao Yu (b. 1965, Inner Mongolia) graduated from the Mural Painting Department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1989 and now lives and works in Beijing. Since 1990s he has engaged in contemporary art creation and was awarded the Chinese Contemporary Art Award (CCAA) in 2000. In 2001, he participated in the 49th Theme Exhibition of Venice Biennale “Plateau of Humankind”, curated by Harald Szeemann, presenting his most controversial work. He was invited to participate in international exhibitions including Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art, Shanghai Biennale and Guangzhou Triennial and the Off site Project at the Royal College of Art in London. His works have been exhibited at the Centre Pompidou, the Groningen Museum, Graz Art Museum, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Seoul Art Museum, Bern Art Museum Switzerland, the Museum Tinguely in Basel, the Royal College of Art in London, the National Art Museum of China, Shanghai Art Museum, Guangdong Art Museum, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, and other eminent exhibition spaces. Xiao Yu joined the Pace Gallery in 2014.
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