Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on November 11, 2011 of The Way of Chopsticks III by Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, their third joint exhibition at Chambers Fine Art. Widely regarded as two of China’s most prominent conceptually oriented artists, the husband and wife team have pursued independent careers since the mid-1990s and have continued to do so until the present day. Although united by a commonality of interests, their individual bodies of work are highly distinctive in character as can be seen from two recent solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Song Dong’s Waste Not (2009) and Yin Xiuzhen’s Collective Subconscious (2010).
Working together for the first time in 2002, they chose the theme of chopsticks as, whether picking up a grain of rice or a more sizeable morsel of food, two chopsticks are essential . As a symbol of their long-standing personal and professional relationship, the humble pair of chopsticks was an essential element in Chopsticks, their first exhibition at Chambers Fine Art New York which they characterized as an exploration of the “theme of Eating, Drinking, Playing and Happiness.” The working method they established whereby once certain rules were established, they did not know what the other was making were developed in The Way of Chopsticks, 2006 which included monumental chopsticks, 8 meters in length, as well as cross-sections and paintings inspired by the ubiquitous security warnings in the United States. The following year their contribution to Net, the first exhibition at Chambers Fine Art Beijing, was Chopsticks #3, elevated above the courtyard of the gallery in Caochangdi, one of which (Song Dong’s) emits fine rain and the other (Yin Xiuzhen’s) contains an electrocardiogram made of red neon light.
For the current exhibition The Way of Chopsticks III, and following the working procedures already established in the prior exhibitions, Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen will each design a monumental pair of chopsticks, 12 meters in length, divided into twelve sections. Working independently of each other, Song Dong was inspired by the beam of a house for his chopstick while Yin Xiuzhen turned to the structure of a crane. In previous exhibitions the contrasting visions of both artists were revealed through juxtaposition of similar forms. Here there is a new spatial dynamism between the pairs of dissimilar elements, a symbol perhaps of the evolving nature of the relationship between husband and wife who only work together when they return periodically to the theme of Chopsticks.
Since 2002 Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen have exhibited widely, with major museum and gallery exhibitions in New York, Beijing and elsewhere. At the same time as their work has become more ambitious, however, it has never strayed far from its source of inspiration in deeply personal relationships with family, friends and their immediate environment. In that respect, it is touchingly old-fashioned. This progression can be seen from a comparison between the artist – designed catalogs published for Chopsticks in 2002 and for The Way of Chopsticks III in 2011, distinguished by its dual spiral ring binders. The earlier catalog was cut and pasted and deliberately hand-made in quality, unlike the current one which is ingeniously designed to present simultaneously the respective contributions of Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen. It is also conceived as a summation of the “Chopstick Period” of their work, republishing Wu Hung’s seminal essay of 2002, John Tancock’s unpublished essay of 2006 and a new interpretation by Phillip Tinari.