Palo Alto—Pace Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of sculptures by Liu Jianhua. The exhibition will focus on Liu's mastery of porcelain, a medium he has been ceaselessly pushing the boundaries of since 1977, when he began working as an apprentice in the Jingdezhen Pottery and Porcelain Sculpture Factory, the oldest established centre of ceramic production in China. Significant recent series in the artist's oeuvre will be on display, including 'Trace' (2011); 'Square' (2014), which was featured in the 2017 Venice Biennale Viva Arte Viva; and 'Blank Paper' (2009—2016). The artist's first solo exhibition with Pace Gallery in the U.S., Liu Jianhua will be on view from June 21 to August 4, 2019 at Pace Gallery at 229 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto.
The series of works included in this exhibition underscore the artist's increasingly philosophical approach toward form and abstraction that has characterised his practice over the last decade. Full distillations of form resulted in the 'Blank Paper' series, thin sheets of white porcelain hung on the wall. Uncannily realistic in their mimicry of pristine sheets of paper, the works demand more than a perfunctory glance to see they are made of porcelain. However, in the process of discovering the sculptures' true medium, assessments and assumptions are reevaluated and the viewer is able to reconsider the form of objects free from preconceptions of their function. Though the works allow for revelations, they offer the viewer no grand narratives, rather inviting people to make their own impressions.
Other highlights of the exhibition include 'Trace', a series of wall-bound black porcelain ink drops, which are inspired by wo lou hen, a calligraphy stroke that can be translated to 'traces from a leaking roof.' The sculptures play off of both wo lou hen's figurative inspiration and calligraphic origins by returning the brushstrokes back to their architectural context, while transforming the walls of the gallery into immense sheets of paper at the artist's disposal. This transformation is made complete by the lustrous black porcelain Liu expertly employs—in his hands the material appears viscous and weighty, threatening to drip down the walls. 'Trace' ultimately led to the final series on view, 'Square', an installation comprised of gold-glazed porcelain pools resting on top of steel sheets, which was most recently shown in Viva Arte Viva at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017). Liu further flexes his unsurpassed dexterity with porcelain by seemingly turning fragile material into delicate liquid pools of precious metal. Though the works are undeniably sumptuous, they present a clean cogent aesthetic with a strong eye for form and material that has defined Liu Jianhua's recent work.
Liu Jianhua was born in 1962 in Ji'an, Jiangxi Province, China. In 1989, he graduated from Fine Art of Sculpture at the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute. The artist now lives and works in Shanghai, China.
Liu Jianhua is one of China's best-known contemporary artists who experiments with comprehensive materials. After graduating from college in 1989, and within a contemporary context, he started his own experimental practices. Liu's porcelain and mixed media works reflect the economic and social changes in China as well as the problems that follow suit. His 'Regular Fragile' series, first shown at the Chinese Pavilion, Venice Biennale in 2003, is composed of porcelain replicas of familiar objects that privilege appearance and symbolism over function. In 2008, he shifted his previous close and direct attention on the problems that emerged in China from globalisation and sharp social changes to 'no meaning, no content', which declared a fairly new exploration in his works with Untitled in 2008, and therefore developed his own system of expression for contemporary art. Liu, together with artists Hong Hao, Xiao Yu, Song Dong, and curator Leng Lin, established the Polit-Sheer-Form Office group in 2005.
Press release courtesy Pace Gallery.