AIKE is delighted to present Li Ran's solo exhibition, Who Are You, comprised of the artist's video work, paintings, and installations over the last two years. At the end of 2016, Li Ran was nominated for the 'Future Generation Award' by the Pinchuk Art Center in Ukraine and was commissioned a project for which he embarked on a journey surveying the antagonist roles in theatre, stage art, make-up design, the production of imported films and espionage films.
The commissioned two-channel video Persona Swap completed this year will be on view in this solo exhibition. Through its stage art, costumes and make-up, performance, this work construct a theatrical dimension parallel to the history of art. In the three chapters of the video, 'Thinking in front of the mirror', 'The fox and the grizzly bear, the vulture and the crocodile' and 'Besides the indistinguishable illusion, who the hell are you?', Li Ran reconstructs an 'abstract realism' out of his photo archive collection, the juxtaposition of roles and scenes, voice-over monologues, and dynamic playwright. In another work, Somewhat Abstract, Somewhat Realistic, Li Ran and his long-term collaborator for cinematography, played alternating roles of the make-up artists and model as they ventured into the shadows of consciousness in artistic practice.
As the exhibition title Who Are You, without the question mark suggests, Li Ran's works on canvas, Ranger and his friends, Beyond the Xinzha Bridge, Domestic Desk, have placed the subject of the 'person'–one that's forever impossible to restore–permanently on the stage. In these seemingly dichotomous settings, between 'front stage' and 'backstage', 'master' and 'guest', 'friend' and 'enemies', Li Ran adopts a unique approach in conveying the complexity, disruption, and contradictions within these scenarios. Hence, the exhibition mobilises a rich and diverse theatrical language, where details from each work resonate with the others. For the viewer who enters on either side of the space through the curtains may experience the effect of entering and exiting the stage, where the front stage can also the backstage as they swap roles in these various scenes.
Li Ran was born in Shiyan, Hubei in 1986, moved to Fuzhou, Fujian with his parents in 1997, and graduated from the Oil Painting Department of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 2009. He lived and worked in Beijing after 2010 and moved to Shanghai in early 2018. Having lived and worked in Shanghai over the last two years, Li Ran gradually realised the city's 'apolitical' urban texture. Like all newcomers, he often compares this city to the rifts and bonds among Chinese cities, and from where he explores and represents these conditions in his artistic practice.
Li Ran's single-channel video works have been screening in Centre Pompidou, Paris (2016, 2017), Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2015), The Jewish Museum, New York (2014) and Video Bureau, Beijing (2014). He has also participated in Montreal Biennale (2014), Geneva Biennale de I'Image en Mouvement (2014), 4th Moscow International Biennale for Young Art (2014), 2nd CAFAM Biennial (2014), 9th Gwangju Biennial (2012) and 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale (2012). He was also awarded with the 'Best Artist' prize in the 4th Moscow International Biennale For Young Art in 2014, and nominated in Future Generation Art Prize by Pinchuk Art Center in 2017. His works have been exhibited at London Institute of Contemporary Arts, Utrecht basis voor actuele kunst (BAK), San Francisco Kadist Art Foundation, Guangdong Times Museum, Beijing Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Canada Remai Modern, Bangkok Jim Thompson Art Center, NTU Center for Contemporary Art Singapore, Kiev Pinchuk Art Centre, Berlin Daimler Contemporary, Nanjing Sifang Museum, San Antonio Museum of Art, San Francisco Asian Art Museum, Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève, The Museum of Moscow, Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, Berlin Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.
Press release courtesy AIKE.