Author Archive

The November/December 2017 Issue Is Now Available

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Editor’s Note

Yishu 83 marks our fourth collaboration with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and its Samsung Senior Curator, Asian Art, and Senior Advisor, Global Arts, Alexandra Munroe. As part of these collaborations, Yishu has published presentations given by leading scholars at the Guggenheim Museum’s Asian Art Council. These meetings and discussions are an important component in the development of the Guggenheim’s Asian art programming and in opening up ideas for us all about what constitutes contemporary Asian art.

This special issue of Yishu takes a somewhat different turn in that it is publishing papers prepared by emerging scholars who were invited by the Guggenheim Museum and New York University to participate in the symposium Art and China after 1989: New Perspectives. Taking place in September 2016, it served as a prelude to the ambitious exhibition Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World, which opened on October 6, 2017, and includes the work of seventy-one artists and groups.

The essays included in Yishu 83 take 1989 and its globally significant events—the China Avant-Garde exhibition, the Tian’anmen Square incidents, the transformation of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc—as a jumping off point for a vitally important period in the evolution of contemporary Chinese with respect to an international presence, the importance of localism, the introduction of new media beyond the tradition of painting, collective artistic endeavours, and an entry into the art market, developments that, among others, are explored in these essays.

Yishu would like to thank the authors for their rich array of contributions and for exploring various case studies, both well known and not, that illuminate this important period of history. We also would like to acknowledge Oriana Cacchione, Xiaorui Zhu, Ros Holmes, Wenny Teo, and Peggy Wang, who made presentations at this symposium but who have previous commitments for their texts. Finally, many thanks to Alexandra Munroe and Kyung An, Assistant Curator, Asian Art, who initiated and worked with Yishu on this special issue.

Image (top): Black Cover Book, 1994, White Cover Book, 1995, and Grey Cover Book, 1998.

Keith Wallace

The September/October 2017 Issue Is Now Available

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Editor’s Note

Yishu has an extensive history, since 2003, of reviewing the work of artists of Chinese descent at the Venice Biennale. In this issue, Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker examines the exhibition at the China Pavilion, which brought together individual works as well as collaborations between folk artists and contemporary artists. She probes the challenges of attempting to convey traditional Chinese communal means of creativity to such a diverse audience as that attending Venice. Ornella De Nigris engages in conversation with Tang Nannan, one of the artists who participated in the China Pavilion. Tang Nannan delves into his personal experience of partaking in these collaborations while maintaining his belief that the meaning of his work should be transmitted in the most direct way possible. Yeewan Koon discusses the work of Samson Young, who represents Hong Kong at the Biennale, and who has created multifaceted installations addressing the dubious impact of “charity songs” meant to raise money for various disasters. She notes how the artist’s work, in contradistinction to that of Tang Nannan, is contingent upon its complexity.

Alexandra Grimmer speaks with Liang Yue about her video projects and the role that intuition and the poetic play in evoking feelings of familiarity and memory through works that focus on the discreet or often-overlooked details of life. Stephanie Bailey converses with Wong Ping about his approach to psychosexual narratives and how animation provides him with a sense of freedom that photographic film does not. Vivian Kuang Sheng explores three important installations by Yin Xiuzhen that involve the direct interaction of viewers and the uncertain or disquieting experiences that this interaction can entail. Through the highly staged photographs of Fang Tong, Dong Yue Su deliberates on the immigrant experience of mainland Chinese who have relocated to other parts of the world, in this case Canada.

Yishu 82 concludes with an in-depth look at the April Photography Society, active during the late 1970s, which, as Adam Monohon proposes, has not been given its due credit for what he considers the first important photographic movement to emerge following the Cultural Revolution.

Image (top): Wong Ping, music video still from “Under the Lion Crotch,” by No One Remains Virgin, 4 mins., 38 secs. Courtesy of the artist, FRUITPUNCH, and Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong.

Keith Wallace

The July/August 2017 Issue Is Now Available

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Editor’s Note

Over the years, Yishu has published a number of thematic issues addressing topics that have currency in the minds of artists, critics, art historians, and curators. In some cases, the topics have been geographical, ideological, or historical in nature and have involved collaborations with institutions such as the Asia Art Archive, the Guggenheim Museum, the Long March Project, and the World Biennial Forum. In other cases, we have worked on special issues of Yishu with individual guest editors, among them Biljana Ciric, Lu Jie, and Lu Pei-Yi, each of whom also had various specific subject matter they aimed to explore.

This current guest-edited issue arises from one of the Asia Art Archive’s Open Platform sessions in 2016 at Art Basel Hong Kong that I attended. It was conceived of and hosted by Mia Yu and Pan Lu and titled Archive Between Present and Future. The participants included Nikita Yingqian Cai, Lee Kai Chung, Elaine Lin, Christopher Phillips, Shen Ruijun, Pelin Tan, and Teng Chao-Ming. The discussion brought into play the importance of archives within cultural ecology, and I sensed that it would make a compelling and timely publication; thus, I invited Mia Yu, a highly respected critic and curator, to guest edit an issue focused on archives. Yishu 81 is the outcome.

Mia Yu has taken an expansive view of what archives and archival work consists of. She has invited artists, curators, and critics to contribute their ideas and experiences related to archives and the importance of the information these “banks” hold in an era where the role of historical documentation in our understanding of the world seems increasingly tenuous. What emerges, however, is the suggestion that even though archives are fundamental to the preservation of many different histories, they are unable to provide a complete view of history. As the writers express here, archives are fluid in the information they offer; more important, they allow that information to be applied in creative ways.

I extend many thanks to Mia Yu for her enthusiasm and commitment in guest editing Yishu 81 and to the authors who have contributed so much in bringing our attention to the value, inspired uses, and new perspectives on archives within contemporary culture.

Image (top): Mia Yu, An Art Historian’s Studio—The Atlas of Archives, 2017, five-part installation at Villa Vassilieff, Paris. Courtesy of Mia Yu.

Keith Wallace

The 11th Annual Award of Art China (AAC), May 23rd, 2017

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Launched by Artron Art Group, the 11th Annual Award of Art China is one of China’s most influential art awards focusing on academic and artistic achievement. Its ceremony was held at the Palace Museum in Beijing on May 23rd, 2017.

The rotating president of the AAC Judging Committee this year was Zheng Shengtian and the jury comprised nine esteemed curators and critics including Eugene Y. Wang, Jane DeBevoise, Karen Smith, Keith Wallace, L David Joselit III, LaoZhu, Lu Mingjun and Wang Huangsheng. And the three most influential awards are as follows:

Art Publication of the Year: An Exhibition about Exhibitions: Displaying Experimental Art in the 1990s by Wu Hung

Young Artist of the Year: Hao Jingban

Artist of the Year: Geng Jianyi

Zheng Shengtian, the rotating president of AAC Judging Committee, delivered the opening speech: “AAC, as the most important contemporary art award, is now in its eleventh year. Thanks to the support of Artron Art Group (Artron), AAC Council and all sponsors, the AAC has achieved incredible progress and development. And thanks to over 60 experts and scholars worldwide in the AAC Consultants Committee, the event is of great academic significance. Here, I would like to pay my tribute to Huang Zhuan, the last rotating president of AAC. Although he passed away last year, his proposal “to contemplate Chinese contemporary art through the perspective of art history” will be a valuable contribution and stay forever with us. The present AAC judges have made a heated discussion on the basis of the ideas and themes mentioned above and finally reached an agreement on the selection of the artists and publication. And we hope that they will also be your choices.”

To read more about the awards in Chinese, please visit:

The May/June 2017 Issue Is Now Available

Monday, May 1st, 2017

Editor’s Note

Over the turn of the twenty-first century, the movement of migrant workers from rural areas to urban ones in mainland China took place on a scale unmatched anywhere else on earth. That this subject has made its way into China’s visual art is addressed by Wu Hung and Madeline Eschenburg in Yishu 80. Like migrant workers, many artists moved from villages and towns to settle in the larger urban centres, especially Beijing. Wu Hung explores the past two decades of work by Zhang Dali and his continuing recognition of the contribution of migrant workers to society, while Eschenburg turns her attention to performance art and how artists have engaged migrant workers to participate in their projects.

Another subject taken up by Yishu 80 is that of ongoing historical documentation
 in visual art. This approach of ensuring acknowledgment of the past in the present has received increasing attention in recent years. Liang Shang-Huei’s essay about the more than thirty years of Chen Chieh-jen’s art production and Phoebe Wong’s essay on the fifty years since the Hong Kong riots of 1967 provide a segue into Yishu 81, guest edited by Mia Yu, which focuses entirely on the importance of archival strategies in contemporary visual art.

Lu Mingjun offers us an extensive examination of the work of Zhang Hui,
 who has been working for more than thirty years, and demonstrates how, having initially come from a background in theatre, the artist’s exploration of painting remains conceptually connected to the idea of theatre. Finally, Yang Yeung provides reflective speculation on two artists, Enoch Cheng and Man Mei-to, who, through their engagement with an exhibition space that is marginal and non-commercial, have come to question their artistic practices and what it means to make art in an urban environment and outside of the accepted realm of the art system.

Image (top): Zhang Hui, Miraculous Slope Analysis No. 2 (details), 2008, oil on canvas, 210 x 320 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Long March Space, Beijing.

Keith Wallace

The March/April 2017 Issue Is Now Available

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Editor’s Note

Yishu 79 opens with features on two artists, Lee Kit and Zhou Bin, whose work reflects idiosyncratic approaches and eludes easy labels. Both artists do, however, explore aspects of the everyday and have an interest in the crossover between art and life. Godfre Leung points out how Lee Kit has been preoccupied with domestic spaces and the personal, even poetic, rituals we carry out within them, but he also recognizes that a discreet critique of global capitalism is embedded in his work. Sophia Kidd and Alice Schmatzberger survey an ambitious performance project by Zhou Bin, who engages public spaces as his stage for often spontaneous events, each of which is delivered once a day over a one-year period, emphasizing that creativity can be a central component of daily life.

We are also presenting reviews of two mainland Chinese biennials. One is among the oldest— the 11th Shanghai Biennale reviewed by Julie Chun—and the other is the newest—the Yinchuan Biennale reviewed by Romain Maitra. Both exhibitions employ literary references as inspiration for their concepts, and each was coincidentally realized under the curatorial leadership of artists/curators from India. This may indicate an effort by the Chinese cultural community to develop closer ties with their neighbours in Asia rather than the customary recourse of turning to the West.

Stephanie Bailey visits the most recent exhibition at the Guggenheim New York featuring artists from Greater China, Tales of Our Time, and discusses the ways these artists express a sense of place, while they simultaneously question the idea of any definitive representation of China. Inga Walton assesses an ambitious, large-scale photography exhibition organized by the Shanghai Centre of Photography that tracks a history of photography in China and introduces us to the breadth of image making before, during, and after the Cultural Revolution. We conclude with a book review by Linda Jean Pittwood that examines the evolution of feminism in China in the 1980s and 1990s,the issue of translation from the West to East, and how that has affected the development of feminism within China itself.

Image (top): Tita Salina, S.O.S., 2016, performance video. Courtesy of the artist.

Keith Wallace

The January/February 2017 Issue Is Now Available

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Editor’s Note

Yishu 78 presents a diverse selection of texts beginning with a feature on Lee Mingwei, an artist whom we last covered in 2002. Rachel Ng looks at his work from the perspective of cultural identity in a world of globalization and, in addition, how his work is positioned with respect to relational aesthetics. Among Voon Pow Bartlett’s interests are Chinese artists engaged with abstraction, and here she explores the work of Wang Jian and how it goes beyond formal aesthetics and enters a realm embedded in philosophical notions about nothingness. Artist Leung Chi Wo has curated an exhibition of the work of Josh Hon, and his text reflects upon an artist well remembered in Hong Kong for his early experimental multimedia projects during the 1980s, a time when such work existed outside the mainstream.

Yu Hsiao Hwei speaks with Huang Yong Ping about his project Empires or the Grand Palais, Paris, and provides insight into the thought processes that come into play in conceiving and realizing such a major installation. In his conversation with Cuban artist Juan Moreira, Zheng Shengtian builds upon his research into the exchanges between mainland China and Latin America during the 1950s and 60s. Phoebe Wong converses with Hong Kong artist Wong Wai Yin about two of her 2016 projects and uncovers an art practice that is idiosyncratic and conceptual, but that also arises from everyday experiences that are patently familiar.

Elena Marcrì identifies a number of Chinese artists who reference the tradition of shanshuihua—mountain and water painting— and considers how they bring it into a contemporary context that reveals a disparity between China’s economic progress and the possibility of ecological sustainability. Finally, Patricia Karetzky takes us into territory Yishu has not yet explored: the introduction of Christianity into mainland Chinese society, and, more provocatively, into the work of Chinese artists. The approach of these artists, however, is not one of promoting the tenets of Christianity but of exploring it in more personal and discreet ways.

Image (top): José Venturelli, Camilo Cienfuegos (detail), 1961, mural in the conference room of Ministry of Health, Havana. Photo: Don Li-Leger.

Keith Wallace

The November/December 2016 Issue Is Now Available

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Editor’s Note

Yishu 77 has two distinct highlights. One is the announcement of and publishing of texts by recipients of the Yishu Awards for Critical Writing and Curating on Contemporary Chinese Art. With the generous financial support of Cc Foundation, Shanghai, and JNBY, China, we have expanded the awards to recognize five individuals (an increase from the initial two of past years) who are making important contributions to the evolution of contemporary Chinese art. The recipients for 2016 are Chen Tong as a senior critic or curator, Carol Yinghua Lu and Lu Mingjun for critical writing, and Bao Dong and Echo He for curating.

The other highlight in this issue is the emphasis on alternative or independent artistic and curatorial practices and exhibition spaces. This is not the first time we have explored these aspects of the Chinese art world, and Yishu is one of the few publications that is advancing this discourse within what increasingly is becoming a massive art industry.

In addition to the recipients of the Yishu Awards there are three texts that also explore alternative practices and spaces. They include Michele Chan’s review of Videotage and its 30th anniversary exhibition, Julie Chun’s in-depth examination of four alternative spaces currently active in Shanghai, and Lu Pei-Yi’s discussion of three artists in Taiwan who are engaging in a social exploration that consciously includes those outside of the art world.

Together, the texts in Yishu 77 explore the dynamic world of non-profit or artist-run spaces, various innovative studio and curatorial practices, alternative sites for exhibitions, and the often- misunderstood relationship between art and its publics. It is frequently assumed that there is an impasse between artistic independence and the art market, but the authors here propose there are added complexities within the cultural ecology.

Yishu thanks Cc Foundation, Shanghai, and JNBY, China for their support. We are pleased to include an interview with David Chau, President of Cc Foundation, who discusses the formation of his commitment to contemporary art.

Image (top): Chen Chieh-jen, Realm of Reverberation (detail), 2014, video installation. Courtesy of the artist.

Keith Wallace

The September/October 2016 Issue Is Now Available

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Editor’s Note

Performance art has a strong legacy in southwest China, particularly in the city of Chengdu. Sophia Kidd, who previously contributed two texts on performance art in this region (Yishu 44, Yishu 55), updates us on an art medium that has shifted emphasis over the years but continues to maintain its presence and has been welcomed by a new generation of artists.

Painting also figures strongly in Yishu 76. Julie Chun writes on Qu Fengguo, a Shanghai artist who since the 1980s has devoted his career to developing the language of abstraction in his painting. Like Ding Yi, another Shanghai artist of the same generation, he has refined rather than “explored” this genre, in this case creating a body of work that is in dialogue with the passing of time and the change of seasons. In a different vein, Cui Xiuwen, best known for her photographic scenarios of young girls going through adolescence, has more recently turned to abstraction within the context of both Chinese and Western art history.

Outside of abstraction is the idiosyncratic painting of Hangzhou artist Zhou Yilun. Danielle Shang places his work within the realm of “bad painting” and a punk aesthetic, a sensibility that has gained little traction within the mainstream and has come to represent a form of resistance to the accepted art system. Also outside of the mainstream are the paintings of Ying Yefu who brings the tradition of gongbi style painting into contemporary realms. Jacob August Dreyer discusses Ying Yefu’s work within a critique of Shanghai’s current art scene and how the artist maintains his integrity within an industry that is fixated on art as commodity.

Maya Kóvskaya interviews Raqs Media Collective, curators of the 2016 Shanghai Biennale, and queries their approach to curating a large group exhibition and how it has the potential to become an immersive experience that is propositional and conversational.

In conclusion, we present the second installment of Lu Huanzhi’s textual artwork Buried Alive, a comment upon Chinese society and the role of contemporary art within it.

Image (top): Ying Yefu, Samurai Driving Guide, 2015, gongbi ink on Chinese bast paper, 101 x 139 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Art Labor, Shanghai.

Keith Wallace

The July/August 2016 Issue Is Now Available

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

Editor’s Note

Yishu 75 opens with a text by Shao-Lan Hertel that explores cross-cultural encounters among three artists—Wang Dongling, Roman Verostko, and Andreas Schmid—as it pertains to the evolution of calligraphy in China during the 1980s and into the 90s, a relatively early period for contemporary Chinese art, and the subsequent interaction with aspects of Western abstract art. This is followed by Carol Yinghua Lu’s rumination on the painter Xie Nanxing, whose highly conceptual works both challenge the practice of painting and propose a provocative dialogue between the figurative and the abstract. Adam Monohon writes about Zhang Kechun’s pensive photographs that bring into play interactions between simple daily activities and the signs of social and economic changes that have taken place along China’s vast Yellow River.

Hong Kong has experienced changes of a different kind during the past decade, both socially and culturally, and John Batten offers an update on the Hong Kong art scene and, in particular, the strong assertion of its sense of identity and growing internationalism following the Umbrella Protests of 2014. Issues of identity also arise through perspectives from the Hong Kong diaspora as expressed in the reflections of Alice Ming Wai Jim and Henry Tsang on the recent new media work of susan pui san lok and her dynamic video montage emphasizing the magic and motion of wuxia, a genre that represents for the rest of the world an imaginary China.

Claudia Bohn-Spector discusses an exhibition of new media work from Taiwan and these artists’ exploration of the vulnerable relationship between nature, society, and science. Wang Bing and Lu Huanzhi test the conventions of what constitutes art—the former, as author Brian Karl points out, by showing his documentary-like films of the marginalized in the context of an art gallery in addition to the cinema circuit, the latter by presenting a fictional novel as a work of art. While Lu Huanzhi’s writing functions as an artwork it also serves as an inventive commentary on the condition of the artist and the state of contemporary art within society today.

Image (top): Zhang Kechun, People Drink Tea by the River, from the series Between the Mountains and Water, 2013, archival pigment print, 107.95 x 132 cm. © Zhang Kechun. Courtesy of Beetles + Huxley, London.

Keith Wallace