» Archive for 20 December 2007

Li Dafang Solo Exhibition

20 December 2007


Galerie Urs Meile
104, Caochangdi Cun, Cui Gezhuang Xiang, Chaoyang District 

Industrial detritus litters the photorealist world of Li Dafang’s canvases. Crumbling, white tiled buildings seem a metaphor for the sad state of architecture in China, as well as weeds, iron grates, and impossibly stacked boxes populate these absurd and lonesome landscapes. At least one figure is present in each composition, but they seem mere afterthoughts, painted in coarse, vivid brushstrokes that contrast with their hazy settings.

Li strongly reflects the industrial aesthetic of artists from China’s Northeast, and this exhibition represents a departure from his earlier works, many of which used words painted directly on the canvas to heighten what looked like movie stills, often incongruous with the scene. Although Li’s work is still compared to film, his recent obsession seems to be memory. More desolate and obscured, the works in this exhibition have lost their previous terse edginess and instead incarnate fragments, objects, places, and situations drawn from the artist’s experience. A six-panel canvas, Jia Wen and Jia Lin, 2007, anchors the exhibition. The appearance of a hellhound-like beast whose red visage hovers above a muted industrial hamlet blatantly depicts the trepidation that lingers in all of Li’s “plots.” An improbable, enormous I-beam structure dominates the left half of this composition, and unexpected rust-like holes dot the canvas and challenge viewers’ passivity. These recent paintings possess a supernatural, engaging quality that draws viewers in; somewhere, lost amidst the artist’s memories and our imagined reconstruction of the events on canvas, we recollect our own experiences we might otherwise have forgotten.

originally published on cn.artforum.com

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