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Solo Exhibition by Chinese Artist Xu Zhen at Perrotin Seoul


Solo Exhibition by Chinese Artist Xu Zhen at Perrotin Seoul
Installation view: XU ZHEN®, Perrotin Seoul, 2018 Courtesy Perrotin

Perrotin Seoul is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Chinese artist Xu Zhen, featuring major works spanning the development of his flagship art brand, XU ZHEN®, since 2013. Using both conceptual and pop strategies, Xu Zhen’s practice mounts incongruous clashes between iconographies pertaining to distant cultures, civilizations and ages to question the loss of context induced by globalization. Ironically mirroring post-Mao China’s journey into consumerism, Xu transforms himself into a brand with the creation of his art corporation “MadeIn Company” in 2009 as a behavioral – and almost performative – study of the symmetries between ideas, art and business. 

Installation view: XU ZHEN®, Perrotin Seoul, 2018, Courtesy Perrotin.

XU ZHEN® This must be heaven, because you sure look like an angel…, 2016, Mirror polished stainless steel, metal chains, 220 × 140 cm | 86 5/8 × 55 1/8 in. Courtesy the Artist and Perrotin.

On display is his signature Under Heaven series, which was featured in the 2014 Armory Show in New York to serve the commercial campaign for the fair. Florae of vibrant colors are skillfully figured using cream piping bags filled with oil colors, evoking the luscious icing on a birthday cake. Fragrant and fragile, joyful and decadent, this subconscious blur of decipherable imagery and extraneous elements alludes to economic growth as a sumptuous, moveable feast – a metaphor for the globalized hedonism in China. Conversely, Xu also sees his pop-like “cake painting” as a collective representation of childhood revelries and excess, a visual referent capable of conjuring each individual’s inner experience. Considered thus, Under Heaven reveals the duality of a sign system at the threshold between principled art and superficial beauty; one which, as Barthes would say, “draws attention to its own arbitrariness – which does not try to palm itself off as “natural” but which, in the very moment of conveying a meaning, communicates something of its own relative, artificial status as well.” 1 This harks back to Xu’s work from the 90’s, a time of ambiguities and conceit amidst political recovery and economic boom. Here, Xu reiterates his interrogation of art – its authority, competence and limitations – vis-à-vis his consciousness of the world in the spirit of Deng Xiaoping’s apocryphal exhortation, “To become rich is glorious”. 

XU ZHEN®, Under Heaven-2801PR0176, 2017. Oil on canvas, aluminium. Ø 150 cm, Depth: 13 cm | Ø 59 1/16 in, Depth: 5 1/8 in. Courtesy the Artist and Perrotin.

Installation view: XU ZHEN®, Perrotin Seoul, 2018. Courtesy Perrotin. 

Installation view: XU ZHEN®, Perrotin Seoul, 2018. Courtesy Perrotin. 

Eternity is a series of sculptural installations that amalgamate archetypes of art history and great civilizations. The collision between cultural symbols allows Xu to subtly touch upon the various power struggles in human history, a leitmotif that continues with his more recent canvas series titled Evolution. Embodying the violent nature of cultural hybridization, the pairings of traditional African and Chinese motifs further problematize the loss of meaning and context induced by the precipitation of globalization in the digital era. Here we return to the idea of an arbitrary “sign” – ever elusive to the museum or gallery visitor – which hints at the great divide we are so accustomed to in the age of post-truth and post-Internet where nothing is quite as it seems. 

A similar concern with appearance and truth underlies the Metal Language series, wherein phrases from political cartoons are presented in an intensive manner using metal chains applied to a mirroring surface. The graffiti-like composition seemingly celebrates the radical political language it concerns, at the same time as it is betrayed by the extravagance of the metallic gloss. This contradiction plunges the work into a suspended state, halfway between meaningfulness and meaninglessness. 

XU ZHEN®, Evolution-North Wall of Mogao Cave No.172, Mma Ji Mask, 2017. Oil on canvas. 120 × 170 cm | 47 1/4 × 66 15/16 in. Courtesy the Artist and Perrotin.

All text and information above by Perrotin Seoul. 

May 10 – July 8, 2018
5 Palpan-Gil Jongno-Gu

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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