Artist spotlight: Liu Wei


Following recent presentations at White Cube in London, the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, and the Armory fair in NY, we dedicate a spotlight to one of China’s most revered contemporary artists - Liu Wei.

Liu Wei installation at the Armory Show, New York, 2014

Having recently acquired a 3rd work by Liu Wei, the Tiroche DeLeon collection now contains a strong selection, representative of Wei’s diverse practice in painting, sculpture and monochrome canvas.

Liu Wei, 'Jungle 1', 2012Jungle 1, our most recent acquisition, is a dark monochrome canvas that echoes Wei’s provocative, non-conformist nature. Wei refuses to give an explanatory statement regarding this work, insisting there is nothing to be said in words, and that nothing can be said.  He wishes to detach the viewer from the standard terminology of “conceptual”, “installation”, “site” and other related phrases which lose their descriptive meaning, and presents us instead with a vocabulary of uneven bars and canvas scaffolding, wrapped, bound, and cut, so a conjunction resides between the work and the space it is displayed in.

The work was part of Liu’s solo exhibition at Long March Space in Beijing, where he installed multiple works of stretched, flattened, pleated, folded, crumpled or shaped dark green canvas over wooden supports. The exertion required to attain the rectilinear tautness in the material, the very hard creases and extreme adherence to the wooden supports, visibly nailed and bolted down, strike one with a prerogative of control.

Liu Wei, 'Exotic Lands No 3', 2011The use of "real" recycled materials, including old furniture and washing machines, is apparent in our piece Exotic Lands No. 3, a prime example of his wood installations made primarily of discarded doors and various building materials, forming new architectural constructions.

Liu Wei, 'Beyond the Sky Limits No. 2', 2012The painting we own, Beyond the Sky Limits No.2, is a beautiful example of yet another masterful series. More serene and dreamlike than some of the famous architectural landscapes in the earlier Purple Air paintings, in this work a series of horizons are painted in broad merging color fields of purple, green and blue, and are splattered over with diamond dust. The result is a painting that encourages the spectator to indulge in a meditative, dreamlike space “Beyond the Sky”.

“Liu Wei is one of the leaders of his generation,” says Michelle Yun, curator of modern and contemporary art at New York’s Asia Society Museum. “He is able to negotiate both the domestic art scene within China, but then is also able to hold his own in this larger international milieu.”

On his works displayed at the Rubell Family Collection show 28 Chinese, Serpentine Gallery curator Hans Ulrich Obrist told Artnews that: “These works are as much a critique of architecture as they are architecture”. Obrist, who first worked with Wei on “China Power Station” in 2006, draws parallels between Liu’s work and the cutting of buildings done by Gordon Matta-Clark. Obrist explains that Liu Wei is interested in the amnesia that occurs in Chinese society as the architecture of urban spaces is torn down and reconstructed.

Liu Wei @ White Cube Mason's YardWei's recent solo exhibition at White Cube gallery in Mason’s Yard (29 January - 15 March, 2014) revisited familiar themes, particularly China's rapidly changing sociopolitical and urban landscapes. Architectural forms featured throughout, evoking the skylines and digital data maps of the artist's Purple Air and Truth Dimension series, focal pieces in his career. The standout installation, Density 1-6, an enormous collection of grand-scale geometric shapes constructed from books, iron and wood, is a beautifully harmonious installationr that eferences the forms Chinese art students are traditionally trained to draw.

"Everything I do has a very long-term view. It's not like, 'I'm here and doing this now'. I'm always considering the future-of what comes next. I am building on the process", says Liu Wei of his work.

Liu Wei is currently represented by Long March Space, Beijing, Lehman Maupin in New York, Almine Rech in Brussels, and White Cube in London. 

Artist Bio

Liu Wei, b. 1972

One of the most intriguing and active young generation artists working in China today, Liu Wei (b. China 1972) explores his ideas in a multitude of media: from performance, sculpture, photography, video and installation, to painting. Liu Wei has been interested in what it is that gives shape and form to the environment around us. While earlier works engage with and make use of particular cultural, social and political ideas, his recent series of works focuses on his relationship with the material and objects that constitute our world, seeking to “get rid of simple materials, and realize more of the value within the matter itself,” as can be seen in the “branding” of found concrete blocks, discarded appliances, and everyday items with the stamp “Property of L.W.”