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Zhao Yao
Beijing Commune
Da Shan Zi, 798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
June 12, 2011 - August 29, 2011

Glad Gazing at the Commune
by Iona Whittaker

Zhao Yao was amongst the emerging artists featured in Taikang Space’s "51m2” series  that stretched from early 2009 to the beginning of this year; one suspects he will not be the only one to have a solo exhibition this or next year partly as a result. The pieces that occupied a single room at Taikang – the graphite-obscured bank notes, coins rubbed smooth, a chat-room-charted version of Beijing time, a long length of material inscribed with a series of numbers – do not reappear here. What does reappear is a strange sculpture effectively composed of a dark green line -- with a black sludgy substance sticking to its length in places – that is bent and curved into a strange 3-D form; big but weightless, twisted and somewhat dark but somehow dynamic, not ugly. Attendant to this odd conceptual beast is a Chinese character pasted in a line along the floor and round the walls at floor level, swelling big and small in a wavelike fashion, the sound of which when read aloud is an endless "aaaa."  It is at first a perplexing and fun discovery to make.

Simply described, Zhao Yao’s current exhibition at Beijing Commune brings together a number of individual works that seem to sit oddly – and enjoyably – together because they appear at once corresponding and juxtaposed. The individual pieces are arranged on a dark floor in the white gallery space: the aforementioned line-sculpture, figurative objects with exploding, zigzagged-line edges, other objects with coloured wooden bases reminiscent of a pop-art POW! shape, found material collages, and a "video" work composed of television sets placed opposite each other at a distance; periodically, block colour flashes across their screens along with a loud clicking sound, like a human tongue mimicking the plop of water. The TVs appear to communicate with these intermittent clicks that at first take the visitor by surprise – a Dada-esque diction arising when it chooses in the otherwise quiet space.

The exhibition text traces a careful path. It implies in none-too opaque terms the difficulty in presenting a new form or idea of art to a waiting audience that has already seen so many ideas, so many works. "Has ‘interpretation’ become a barrier to interaction with art?" it asks. Interaction or encounter, rather than layered "interpretation," seems to be foregrounded in this show, not least because coming upon these works as a group is actually rather amusing or light hearted, and certainly very compelling. It is as if Zhao has grouped together several carefully-enacted references to conceptual art history; superficially enjoyable as objects and with a finely-tuned aura that stops them being trivial, these pieces voice an engaging simplicity. To say that they appear to lack depth feels less like a criticism than something quite refreshing. This is an exhibition to visit more than once.


-- Iona Whittaker

(All images courtesy of Beijing Commune and the artist.)


Posted by Iona Whittaker on 6/27/11 | tags: sculpture

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