Pace Gallery in Hong Kong is honoured to present Window - Mirror, a solo exhibition of recent works from the famed contemporary artist Song Dong's series 'Usefulness of Uselessness', his most representative body of work in recent years. In 2019, Pace staged the artist's large-scale solo exhibition Same Bed Different Dream in London and screened his video installation Smashing the Limit of the Mirror as the inaugural presentation of the Pace Live program at its New York gallery. The artist's latest solo exhibition, which will be on view through October 28, will feature nine new works created during the pandemic that reflect the artist's concern about the human spiritual condition of our times.
Song Dong is one of the most important figures of the Conceptual art movement in China. He continues to challenge the preconceived notions of art with his open-minded approach, and his work blurs the boundary between art and life. Song Dong uses everyday objects and familiar imagery to carry out his artistic vision. Through the notion of 'invisible form,' the artist offers room for interpretation in his work, harmoniously combining profound reflective thinking with experiential elements. His work Breathing (1996) is currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of its permanent collection exhibition, and many of his other works are on display at major art institutions around the world, including Tate Modern in London.
In the new works presented in the solo exhibition Window - Mirror, Song Dong has continued his investigations of the varied cultural meanings of windows. As barriers between living spaces and the wider world, windows offer key perspective through which people view the outside environment. In the process of being opened or closed, windows can alter the relationships between individuals and the external world. Through changes in colour and form, they can transform the world's appearance in the eyes of the viewer. Song Dong's work builds on the rhetorical and aesthetic significance that has been associated with windows since ancient times.
The new work Usefulness of Uselessness—Compressed Window (2020) was created during the year that the global spread of COVID-19 fundamentally shifted the human social order. Isolation replaced interaction, and everyday activity was reduced to the most basic range. In the series created during this unique time, Song Dong has forcefully compressed the original proportions of the window frames, forging an installation depicting a densely packed cityscape. The artist folds and stacks the cramped space between the window frames using techniques from Chinese screens to transform the work into a more ductile, flexible effect, while the mirrored surfaces embedded inside of the installation create an infinite illusory space.
The phrase 'usefulness of uselessness' in the artwork's title denotes its relationship to the notion of 'surplus value' that Song Dong has been exploring since 2014. The artist is constantly collecting the refuse of buildings demolished in the process of urban renewal, imbuing found materials with artistic value beyond their functional purposes. Usefulness of Uselessness—Black Window is the latest work of this kind. With blacked-out windowpanes that make the frames appear plainer as they leap out in their original colours, the entire work exudes a sense of solemnity. Close inspection reveals, however, that the artist has not used 'pure black' anywhere in the work: faint red, green, and blue light is cast through the panes of black glass. The image of the black window has appeared before in the work of Marcel Duchamp, which has been a source of inspiration for Song Dong's own practice.
Song Dong often draws inspiration from scenes and objects in everyday life, employing rich rhetorical methods to transform them into carriers of concepts, sensations, and meaning. He describes this creative approach using the oxymoron 'abstract realism'—the artist extracts imagery from reality and renders it on the aesthetic and conceptual level, but its core is still realism. Through these associations with reality and everyday life, which are central to the artist's oeuvre, Song Dong cultivates a distinct vitality in his work.
Press release courtesy Pace Gallery.