Eli Klein Fine Art is pleased to present Material Object, a six-person show exhibiting works by
Gao Rong, Li Hongbo, Li Hongjun, Wang Liwei, Wang Lei, and Ye Sen. The artists work with
various media such as paper, cloth, wood, and leather, and employ techniques that allow
them to explore the possibilities of their craft, bringing traditional handicrafts to a unique level of
Rediscovering neglected objects, questioning reverence for history and tradition, and
contesting society's restrictions on internal and external expression, Material Object examines
societal issues in China through the reconceptualization of chosen techniques. Although they
start from individual points of investigation, the artists use their unique artistic processes to
recontextualize and reimagine contemporary China.
Gao Rong's work updates the conventional function of embroidery and uses it as an
instrument for memory preservation. Weaving together cloth, sponge, and iron creates a
juxtaposition of fragility and endurance. She infuses her embroidered pieces with meticulous
details that scaffold the conceptual foundation of her work. Gao Rong uses visually delicate
materials to produce signs of rust and wear, revealing her feelings of nostalgia towards
neglected objects, along with addressing the anthropomorphic nature of memories.
Li Hongbo explores the adaptability of his medium by playing with the concept of the
children's toy called 'paper gourd'. This toy is made from a stack of interconnected sheets of
thin paper that can be stretch to form new shapes. Li Hongbo's paper figures challenge the
human form. Resembling human bodies, they rebuild the idea of what the human form can
project. The flexibility of these sculptures allows for a hyper-extension of the limbs, creating
abstraction from realism. These elongated limbs, which have the ability to tumble out from the
figure's barely distinguishable core, allow us to find a new, playful and anomalous aesthetic.
Similarly, Li Hongjun works with thinly cut sheets of paper to compose his anthropomorphic
sculptures. These surreal renderings of human heads use compression and distortion to
comment on the deforming influence culture imposes on the minds of the public, which can
threaten creativity, and originality. Li Hongjun's appreciation for this medium stems from his
experience with folk art, paper cutting, and his view that paper brings the truest
representation of any subject. Through consideration of the practical object and the
renegotiation of space, the artist explores human emotion, self-identification, and ideology.
Through the suppleness of the material and irregular composition of figures, Wang Liwei
depicts fluidity of the human form. Through the use of leather, Wang infuses tactility and
mutability. The subtle renderings of emotional gesture lead the viewer to reimagine the
relationship between what is felt and what is expressed.
Material Object also includes work by Wang Lei, who uses xuanzhi, a high-quality rice paper
utilized for traditional Chinese calligraphy and brush painting. The paper is twisted into long,
delicate threads that are then woven into reproductions of Chinese imperial robes. The
manipulation of this tough-textured paper into the composition of such an exquisite style of
garment plays upon the layers surrounding the relationship between viewer perception and
reality. Wang Lei also draws attention to the often-disputed interconnectedness between
traditional and contemporary art, focusing on the reverence for history and tradition as a
central obstacle that also acts as a hindrance in regards to acceptance of contemporary art
Ye Sen's works are sculptures of visual trickery at its best. Interconnecting and descending
wooden chains have been carefully carved to resemble metal, forcing the viewer to
reexamine their own perception of the work. As much as Ye Sen's experimentation with
material causes the viewer to reconsider the true composition of the work, the conceptual
basis for his art similarly allows multiple interpretations. While the chains can be read as literal
critiques of the restrictions imposed by society upon the individual, they can also be viewed as
an embodiment of connectivity, symbolizing the relatedness of individuals.