Chinese artist Liu Wei is showing two works in the 58th International Art Exhibition, May You Live In Interesting Times, as part of the 2019 Venice Biennale (11 May–24 November 2019). Curated by Ralph Rugoff, current director of London's Hayward Gallery, the exhibition is held in the Arsenale and Giardini's Central Pavilion and includes works by 79 international artists and collectives. This year's Biennale does not have a theme, although Rugoff has noted that it nonetheless will 'highlight a general approach to making art and a view of art's social function as embracing both pleasure and critical thinking.' In this IGTV video for Ocula (@ocula.art), Rachel Lehmann, co-founder of Lehmann Maupin, provides viewers with a tour of Liu's two sculptural installations on show in Venice, Microworld (2018) and devourment (2019), and discusses some of the ideas that underpin the works.
Born in Beijing, China in 1972, Liu grew up against a background of rapid urbanisation and ideological instability in China. His artworks are consequently often concerned with facets of contemporary urban life, ranging from consumer culture to our perception of and relationship to cities. The artist is known for his multidisciplinary practice, and the breadth of the materials and techniques he employs can be glimpsed in well-known works such as Love It! Bite It! (2005–2007), a sculptural installation of a miniature city made from dog chews; 'Purple Air' (2006–2010), a series of highly abstracted cityscapes; and Puzzle (2014), a large-scale assemblage of mirrors.
Shown within the striking setting of the Arsenale, Liu's work Microworld (2018) is a large-scale installation consisting of spherical forms and polished metal plates that form an environment of their own behind a glass wall. As Lehmann notes, the work is reflective of Liu's interest in landscape, technology, and our ability to make associations between inorganic shapes and our surroundings. For example, green evokes landscape and vegetation, while the red sphere alludes to the sun, heat, love, and emotional balance. The second and smaller work, titled devourment (2019), situated in the pavilion within the Giardini, also engages with the idea of our relationship with our environment, juxtaposing architectural elements and elements resembling natural forms such as rocks and water.
This is the second occasion Liu has been invited to exhibit in the Venice Biennale, the first being at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005. He has also exhibited in the Shanghai Biennale (2016, 2010, 2004), La Biennale de Lyon (2015, 2007), Gwangju Biennale (2010), and the Guangzhou Triennial (2012, 2008, 2005, 2002).—[O]