ShanghART Shanghai is pleased to present British artist Michael Dean's first solo exhibition in China on 24 March. The exhibition, stamped with the character and concrete syntax of public spaces, takes as its starting point the recent proliferation and prominence of pictorial language and the text-based communication of emotion via our digital devices, and explores how the ambiguity of these has enabled them to take on a range of culturally specific meanings and spaces beyond their intended use. The exhibition 'Analogue LOL', developed through a year-long discussion between curator Victor Wang and artist Michael Dean, is centred on the construction of common spaces and the evolution of the acronym LOL (laughing out loud), and its recent development into the emoji officially known as 'Face with Tears of Joy'. Somewhere between picture and word, in 2015 this emoticon became the first pictograph to be named 'word of the year' by Oxford Dictionaries, signalling a shift in the application, use and reception of language. This exhibition continues to 13 May.
The layout of the exhibition begins with a single page: blank, with slightly curved edges, its flat white face becoming the unmarked vinyl floor of the ShanghART gallery, and Dean's re-appropriated security tape regulating the assembly of LOLs occupying the gallery. Dean's work is often described as sculpture, but it is not sculpture in a traditional sense. Dean traces the restlessness of inner-city living and the human emotions that spring from its cracked concrete surfaces. Each of Dean's artworks and exhibitions, including this one, begins with words and letters that he has written. However, these words and emotions have shed their skin, distorted by misuse and rearrangement, much like the posture of a minimum-wage employee moulded by the unrestrained hands of the city. Transformed from ink and lead, these charged artworks are cast and moulded from the same construction materials that were used to redevelop Shanghai's West Bund, and that connect the joints of the city, and its public spaces to its hosts.
With its torn pages and hand mixed hand placed coloured concrete, the exhibition opens up a space between language, social space and the pictorial transformation of both, using the architecture of LOL and the visual field of construction to amass an unregulated gathering of speech and laughter which both intrudes on and slows down the rapid governance of language and space. Image-based emotions in the twenty-first century provide the foundation for an international written and visual mode of expression that has inevitably complicated the divide between visual images and verbal language.
Press release courtesy ShanghART.