Da Shan Zi, 798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
International visitors to Beijing Commune, by any measure one of the most discreet, well-lit, and downright Chelsea-ite spaces in the 798 Art District, will most likely have a certain impression of Wang Guangle, whose beautifully surfaced paintings have adorned many a group exhibition over the past several years. His Coffin Paintings, which appropriate Fujian folk customs by using an enamel lacquer with which the aged paint layer upon layer over the own coffins, are strikingly textured two-dimensional objects that seem perfectly calculated to insert ambiguously beautiful visions of otherness into a broadly postcolonial art world. His abstract number paintings, each one titled after its date of completion, drop the identity politics but seize upon digital fade techniques to produce geometric visions of an almost-Chinese op-art. His Terrazzo paintings constitute brilliant vertical transformations of the paradigmatic ersatz marble floors that are constantly underfoot in the converted factories-turned-studios so pervasive throughout the Chinese art world.
These are, almost without exception, stunning assemblies of paint on surface. But Wang Guangle has always been more than a parlor painter: before there was Terrazzo, for instance, there was The Wall. When the artist received notice that his studio (also covered with terrazzo flooring) would be demolished, he decided to offer it an ephemeral memorial by painting one entire wall with the marbled pattern, working feverishly to cover the surface before the wrecking ball fell. This demonstrates a certain affinity with scale, process, and monumentality, all of which come back into play with the sole work on offer in the current exhibition: 20110423 (2011). Consisting of a wall-mounted ellipse almost fifteen meters long by four-and-a-half meters tall and jutting out from the wall at a maximum of a half meter, this is a monolith of layers of paint and plaster. Subverting the current tendency towards slacker minimalism, Wang has become something of an overachiever: this is a beautiful experience of scale and form, for sure, but it is also a hugely physical instantiation of labor and time.
-- Robin Peckham
(All images courtesy of Beijing Commune and the artist.)