Reception: March 24, 6-8pm
Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on March 17, of Layers: Recent Works by Xiaoze Xie. The title refers to the stacks of Chinese books and newspapers that are depicted in the paintings as well as to the historical dimension of the events hinted at and partially visible in many of the works. In another dramatic series of paintings and in an installation, Transience, the topic of the deliberate destruction of printed matter is addressed. A wall of books serves as the screen on which are projected images of books being tossed into the flames under the Nazi regime during the 1930s.
Born in Guangdong in 1966, Xiaoze Xie graduated from Tsinghua University and the Central Academy of Arts and Design, Beijing before moving to the United States and settling in Texas where he continued his studies in a very different environment. As a realist painter by vocation, early on in his career Xie found a way to combine his passionate interest in aspects of Chinese history and current world events with more formal concerns by focusing on the materials stored in archives and library stacks as the subject matter of his paintings. Admitted to areas normally out of bounds to the general public, Xie found a rich source of material in library stacks ranging from the monochromatic bindings and pages characteristic of traditional Chinese books to the exaggerated colors of the photographs found in most contemporary newspapers and magazines.
Unlike the newspaper paintings, the Chinese Library series which began in 1995 is not time-specific in its references. The decaying volumes and manuscripts in three paintings in the series (nos. 42, 43 and 45) refer in generic terms to China¡¯s complicated history, to traditions that are on the point of disappearing before the onslaught of modernity that is characteristic of China today. In contrast, the newspaper paintings are multi-colored and specific in their references to current events. The local and national newspapers that have appeared in his paintings for the last ten years, selected primarily for visual interest, also offer an unofficial history of the decade with references ranging from September 11, 2001 and the war in Iraq to the Beijing Olympics and the Sichuan earthquake that figure prominently in the most recent paintings included in the current exhibition.
Unlike many of his contemporaries who left China in the 1980s and early 1990s and have subsequently returned, Xie stayed in the United States where he has had a distinguished professional career. During the period when the Political Pop and Cynical Realist Movements were flourishing in China, Xie continued his investigation of cultural and political concerns as reflected through the contents of libraries and
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archives while deepening his understanding of a broad range of western art. Commentators on his work have referred to sources as diverse as Spanish still life painting of the seventeenth century and the installations of Donald Judd at Marfa, Texas. Consequently, his paintings are always characterized by a tension between respect for the Realist impulse in western art and the chief vehicle of its realization, oil painting, and awareness of the contradictory demands of Modernism. In the current exhibition the deep chiaroscuro that characterizes the Chinese library series contrasts with the harsh colors and more rigid structure of the newspaper painting, an analogy for the disjunction between traditional values and the demands of contemporary civilization.
Xiaoze Xie is currently the Paul L. & Phyllis Wattis Professor in Art, Department of Art & Art History, Stanford University, California.
This exhibition is presented in conjunction with Asian Contemporary Art Week, which is taking place from March 21 through March 31.