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'Brilliant City' at David Zwirner Hong Kong Highlights the Complexity of Metropolitan Spaces

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'Brilliant City' at David Zwirner Hong Kong Highlights the Complexity of Metropolitan Spaces
Chen Wei, Iron Sheet, 2015. Image courtesy of David Zwirner Hong Kong

Drawing inspiration from the city, Leo Xu organizes a group exhibition at David Zwirner Hong Kong. Entitled Brilliant City, this exhibit features works by Francis Alÿs, Chen Wei, Stan Douglas, Michael Lin, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Singaporean artist Ming Wong. Brilliant City borrows its title from the 1987 Cantopop song Starry Night, where Hong Kong Based electro duo Tat Ming illustrate the mystifying brilliance of a cityscape at night. They draw their inspirations from Hong Kong, described as “an archetypal dystopian metropolis characterized by its unparalleled density and lofty high rises”. The exhibition effectively explores the means in which artists across an array of frameworks, demographics and mediums have been captivated by the complexity of metropolitan spaces.

Li Qing, VictoryNeighbours Window series (2017). Image courtesy of David Zwirner Hong Kong 

Li Qing, Statue of a PoetNeighbours Window series (2016). Image courtesy of David Zwirner Hong Kong 

Michael Lin, a Tokyo-born Taipei-based artist, spent 10 years in Shanghai “investigating the city’s new forms of commerce and urban mobility that have arisen due to new technological devices and programs”. A wall painting entitled “Forever Shanghai” commissioned specifically for this show depicts a Forever (Yongjiu) bicycle logo with letters rendered in a mid-century Shanghai typeface. These are repeated in a grid across a gallery wall. Forever (Yongjiu) still maintains its status as China’s oldest bicycle manufacturer. It is viewed as an object attached to a significant amount of nostalgia synonymous with the bicycles themselves. Lin uses this notion to observe the resurgence of bicycling in recent years, growing prevalent across China. Named after a street in Shanghai, an artist-assembled “Forever” bicycle accompanies Lin’s work.

Installation view of Brilliant City. Image courtesy of David Zwirner Hong Kong. 

Beijing-based artist Chen Wei’s dramatically lit scenes are included in this exhibition. Reimagined from entities of his life in Beijing, Chen constructs these scenes in miniature in his studio so as to evoke cyberpunk literature. They depict themes of urban absurdities, including derelict interiors and streets devoid of life. What this results in are uncanny and surreal portraits of urban life, a commentary on Beijing’s complex relationship to rapid urbanization.

Chen Wei, Falling Light, 2015.  Image courtesy of David Zwirner Hong Kong. 

Brilliant City also includes Singaporean artist Ming Wong and his interpretation of Alain Resnais’s 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad. Entitled Next Year/L’Année Prochaine/明年, Wong plays both male and female leads in his rendition of this classic encounter between a man and woman. Filmed across multiple venues in Shanghai’s old French Concession including Marienbad Café and Fuxing Park, Wong succeeds at creating a feeling of déjà vu through his opaque treatment of time and space, directing the audience between past, present, and future. Surprisingly, the film Next Year/L’Année Prochaine/明年 is based neither in Paris nor Shanghai, but rather constructed to exist within an ambiguous spatiotemporal realm.

Ming Wong, still of Next Year/L’Année Prochaine/明年. Image courtesy of the artist. 

This exhibition also includes Stan Douglas’s 2017 Blackout Series, Mexico-city based Artist Francis Alÿs’s film entitled Zócalo, and American artist Gordon Matta-Clark’s antimonument, or “nonument” entitled Conical Intersect created for the Paris Biennale in 1975.

In Brilliant City (Reprise), David Zwirner Hong Kong additionally presents Shanghai-based artist Wang Yi. The artist is renowned for handmade pigments on a range of materials including canvas, aluminum plates and mirrors. Executing as such through the layering of paint over long stretched of time, Wang Yi seeks to present an homage to traditional painting practices and comment on the passage of time. What this results in are geometrc abstractions and minimal works that are "at once restrained and dynamic, pure and complex". 

Wang Yi, Array (2017), Graphite on Paper. Image courtesy of David Zwirner Hong Kong 

Cell series (2017), Acrylic on Canvas. Photo courtesy of David Zwirner Hong Kong 

Other artists included in Brilliant City (Reprise) are aajiao, Cheng Ran, Li Qing, Luo Jr-Shin and Wang Rui.

Brilliant City is on show at David Zwirner Hong Kong until the 4th of August
For more information, click here.


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.



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