Chambers Fine Art New York is pleased to announce the opening on October 4th of Dilemma: Three Way Fork in the Road by Wang Jianwei. This will be the artist’s second solo exhibition in New York, the first having been Flying Bird is Motionless held at Chambers Fine Art in 2005. Born in Sichuan Province, China in 1958, Wang Jianwei was trained as a painter at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (new China Academy of Fine Arts) in Hangzhou. The technical virtuosity and compelling drama of these paintings would have guaranteed him a prominent position as a painter had he chosen to pursue this path but instead he chose to diversify, investigating video, film and theater in different combinations.
Wang Jianwei’s range of interests embraces both the mundane and the historical or mythological. Foremost in the former category is the celebrated two-hour documentary Living Elsewhere (1999-2000) which documented with a sensitivity worthy of the Italian Neo-Realists the plight of peasants occupying an abandoned housing project in Sichuan Province. At the other extreme are works such as Ceremony 1 and Ceremony II which respectively referenced two extreme modes of stylized expression, films of post 1949 China during the height of Communist fervor and stories from the Tang Dynasty. Past and present, the visible and invisible coexist in Wang Jianwei’s oeuvre, resulting in a critical position of peculiar intensity.
This direction in his work has become more pronounced in recent years, notably in Flying Bird is Motionless and one of his latest video works, Symptom. Anselm Franke has described the latter as “a monumental tableau vivant presenting what could be China itself, as a haunted space in which a series of asynchronous spaces coexist (and collide) on one stage. Formally, these works come also close to opera, but what makes the scenery so strong is a sense that what really comes into existence here is the paradoxical presence of history in China itself, that is to say its complete disappearance between the smokescreen of phantom objectivity, and its hyper-presence on the horizon beyond.”
In Dilemma: Three Way Fork in the Road, Wang Jianwei intensifies the visual and temporal dissonance that has characterized his recent videos and mixed-media theatrical experiments. With references to the Peking Opera, two armed figures circle each other warily as, oblivious to their presence, actors in period uniforms and contemporary dress enter the theatrical arena. In increasing numbers they consume a variety of foods until they collapse in a heap. As Wang Jianwei has remarked: “I aim to deal with the representation of the visible and the invisible in the image and at the same time, two kinds of time, past and present. A full understanding of the complicated social and cultural issues facing Chinese society in the past 100 years, culminating perhaps today in the mad rush to modernize, cannot be achieved by limiting one’s focus to the past or the present. Antiquarianism does not provide the answers any more than does immersion in today’s technical achievements.”
The video will be accompanied by two groups of photographs of the same performance, one related to the video and the other shot dramatically from above.
*A catalog will be available.