The first edition of CONDO Shanghai is hosted in partnership with Sadie Coles HQ at ShanghART Gallery West Bund Bldg.8. This exhibition features works by two artists from each gallery: Shanghai artists Geng Jianyi and Birdhead alongside Uri Aran and Ryan Sullivan, both based in New York. Spanning a diverse range of mediums—including painting, photography and installation—the exhibition showcases four distinct practices, each reflective of a particular voice and context. At the same time, it points towards shared sensibilities—in particular, an impulse towards reconciling disjunctive elements (whether images, colours or gestures) into tentative, ambiguous wholes.
Built up in multiple layers, Ryan Sullivan's large-scale paintings reflect his dynamic and constantly evolving mode of abstraction, with each painting standing as a physical record of its own creation—both embodying and describing material flows and physical processes. Sullivan's latest body of work, made using silicon-rubber moulds, are produced 'in reverse': Sullivan adds layers of paint to the open-faced mould, allowing its particular shape or contours to affect the pooling and movement of colour. Each painting thereby develops as an image and an object concurrently, becoming increasingly invisible and unforeseeable as Sullivan fills the cavity with paint. Pigment takes on the function of a molten sculptural medium. The evolution of the painted image (formulated out of drips, strokes and other gestures) is simultaneous with—and inseparable from—that of the physical stuff of the artwork.
In a sequence of wall pieces from 2016, Uri Aran (b. 1977) integrates drawing, sculpture, collage, text and printing to create a fluid system of disconnected yet deftly layered signifiers. Each work harbours an intricate arrangement of signs and symbols, handmade marks and mediated elements—producing an intricate language or iconography that resists straightforward decipherment. Incorporating various media and alternating between printed and inscribed marks, Aran creates amalgams of half-familiar symbols, casual annotations and abstract linear flourishes. He describes his works as being founded upon a kind of 'flat logic' (belying their seeming arbitrariness). Assembled shapes and textures mass together into a physical 'landscape', while the disparate elements also mirror the chains of signifiers and syntactical 'parcels' that constitute language.
Geng Jianyi (1962–2017) came to prominence within the People's Republic of China as a seminal member of the avant-garde movement known as the '85 New Wave. His work is characterised by its eschewal of any single method of representation or category of meaning. From the mid-1980s, Geng employed a deliberately broad and disparate range of techniques, including various forms of painterly transcription, staining, photographic and filmic transfer, chemical transformation and textual juxtaposition—using incongruous elements to undermine any attempt at a definitive or totalising reading of his work. In a series of works from 2016, the artist projected animated films using domestic torches: the clunky devices sit in jarring contrast with the small projections they cast. Each artwork records the passing of time from a micro-perspective.
The practice of Birdhead (a collaborative duo comprised of Song Tao, b. 1979, and Ji Weiyu b. 1980) centres dually on the photographic image and the theory of photography. Combining elements of documentary photography, montage, painting and assemblage, the artists imbue photographic imagery with multiple (and often contradictory) moods and meanings—from dispassionate reportage to surrealist erotic fantasies. Much of their work focuses on the architectural and social fabric of Shanghai. The flux and fragmentation of the city are mirrored in the artists' mode of production, whereby multiple images are brought together into teeming, unresolved assortments: individual images are always fragments or indices of a larger world view. Their latest series 'Passions Bloom Ambitions' focuses on the test strips and waste prints produced in the darkroom. These form the basis of collages in which photography merges with painting.
Traceable throughout the different works in the exhibition is an interest in the shifting relationship between part and whole, or between fragment and totality. Despite their radically different approaches and styles, the artists are united by an impulse to subsume eclectic parts into a larger system, while at the same time resisting the glibness or finality of a 'complete picture'.
Press release courtesy Sadie Coles HQ and ShanghART Gallery
Condo Shanghai (7 July–26 August 2018) is the first Shanghai edition of the Condo project, which was initiated in London in 2016 by gallerist Vanessa Carlos, of Carlos/Ishikawa. Since its inception, Condo has toured to cities like São Paulo (2018), Mexico City (2018), and New York (2017 and 2018). It connects local and international...