Wang Xingwei opens exhibition at Galerie Urs Meile Beijing

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Wang Xingwei opens exhibition at Galerie Urs Meile Beijing
Wang Xingwei, Maldives, 2021. Oil on canvas, 240 300 cm. The artist and Galerie Urs Meile.

BEIJING.- Galerie Urs Meile Beijing announced the latest solo exhibition of Wang Xingwei (b. 1969, Shenyang), titled Love Expert. This exhibition showcases Wang Xingwei’s thematic creations in recent years, coupled with a minimalist display that aims to emphasize the nonchalance, playfulness, and fervor that populate his works. The gallery specially invited Tian Jun to design the exhibition. The works presented here continue the artist’s signature compositional dexterity, as well as his relentless and extensive explorations of techniques including substitution, exaggeration, quotation, reference, and wordplay.

The exhibition begins with the vacation series, set against the backdrop of a sun-drenched tropical island, which evokes the artist’s yearning for oversea vacations and respites during the pandemic. By parodying and appropriating familiar images, the artist effortlessly tiptoes between high art and popular culture. In the painting Maldives (2021, oil on canvas, 240 300 cm), Ingres’ La Grande Odalisque, an icon of European art history, morphs into a woman in a bikini, reclining languidly on a flamin-go-shaped swimming ring.

Love and marriage are the overarching themes that string together many of the works in this exhibition. Incorporating comic strips as the formal language, the artist bestows a unique sense of humor on these love stories, whether situated in Western classics or day-to-day scenarios. Oedipus and the Sphinx (Proposal 1993) (2021, oil on canvas, 190.5 150 cm) originated from the artist’s personal experi- ence of proposing in the 1990s. At the time, China was caught between the early stages of modern urbanization, characterized by its relatively crude, amplified imitation and emulation of Western civilization. At the same time, the artist fashioned his protagonist with the trendy “hand-heart” gesture. The composition also draws on the blown-up, over-the-top aesthetic of the comic strips, rendered in strongly contrasting colors. The relationship between the characters in the painting somehow finds its parallel in the Greek myth, in which the Sphinx riddled Oedipus and was answered by the hero. Here, “love” solves the great riddle of marriage instead. The work symbolizes not only the artist’s homage and retrospection of a certain precious moment but a whimsical blend of two drastically different eras.

Passionate Love (2022, oil on canvas, 240 200 cm), on the other hand, extends his typical style that merges anthropomorphism with anthropomorphism, presenting a ridiculous summer fling with an inscrutable attitude.

While the subject of courtship spans his works from 2006 to 2022—much like the artist’s obsession with depicting the same subject incessantly, one can catch a glimpse of the artist’s extreme scrutiny towards his creative process through the Rowboat series in the exhibition. untitled (Small Rowboat) (2006, oil on canvas, 100 120 cm) witnessed a watershed moment in Wang Xingwei’s career. Inspired by Modern Sketch, a Shanghai art periodical trendy in the 1920s, Wang Xingwei abandoned his usual realist style in pursuit of an experimental cartoonish form, favoring simplified lines and symbols to present a vivid tableau of urban courtship. In 2022, Wang Xingwei held a major solo exhibition, Wang Xingwei in Shanghai 2002 – 2008, at the Power Station of Art Shanghai, through which the artist ruminated on his earlier production and subsequently created the more intriguing and contemporary New Rowboat (2022, oil on canvas, 200 320 cm). Under the same thematic vein lurks the unsettling dynamism of this relationship, whereas the gazes of the young couple are altered in this iteration of the courting scene, revealing a novel emotional tension that is non-existent in the previous work, with the emoji-like symbols from social media complimenting the humor of the picture.

Wang Xingwei’s practice has always centered around his “thematic paintings” throughout his career. While paying attention to personal experience and mundanity, the artist integrates individual feelings with the collective memory of our time through an absurd, mischievous altitude, injecting an alluring surreality into an everyday life that one is accustomed to with his quirky and witty perception. On the other hand, his works harmoniously transform and fuse the individual with the community, the history with the present.

Wang Xingwei was born in 1969 in Shenyang, and currently lives and works in Beijing. He has been widely exhibited in China and abroad. Recent solo shows include: Wang Xingwei in Shanghai 2002 – 2008, Power Station of Art, Shanghai, China (2022); dual solo exhibitions The Code of Physiognomy and Shenyang Night held respec- tively at Galerie Urs Meile Beijing’s 798 space and Caochangdi Space (2019); Honor and Disgrace, Organized by Galerie Urs Meile, and supported by Platform China (2016); the large retrospective Wang Xingwei, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China (2013); Wang Xingwei, held at Galerie Urs Meile Beijing in 2011 and Lucerne in 2012; and Wang Xingwei – Large Rowboat, Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing, China (2007). Group shows include: A Leisurely Stroll – The Tenth Anniversary of The Long Museum, Long Museum West Bund, Shanghai, China (2023); Uncanny Valley, Gagosian, Hong Kong, China (2023); M+ Sigg Collection: From Revolution to Globalisa- tion, M+ Museum, Hong Kong, China (2021); Forget the Horizon, chi K11 art museum (Shanghai), Shanghai, China (2020); Chinese Whispers 中国私语 – Recent Art from the Sigg Collection, MAK Museum fr Angewandte Kunst, Vienna, Austria (2019); Force as Fulcrum – Selected works from the collection of Wang Bing & Xue Bing, New Century Art Foundation, Beijing, China (2018); Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World, Museum Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain (2018); M+ Sigg Collection: Four Decades of Chinese Contemporary Art, ArtisTree, Hong Kong, China (2016); Chinese Whispers, Kunstmuseum Bern and Zentrum Paul Klee, Berne, Switzerland (2016); DUCHAMP and/or/in CHINA, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China (2013); The State of Things – Contemporary Art from China and Belgium, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China (2010); Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany (2006); The 1st Guangzhou Triennial, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China (2002); 4th Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, Lyon, France (1997).

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