Magazine article Artforum International

Fang Lijun: The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar

Magazine article Artforum International

Fang Lijun: The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar

Article excerpt

Born in 1963, Chinese artist Fang Lijun was still a student when his work was included in 1989's milestone exhibition "No U-Turn," at the China Art Gallery in Beijing. In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Fang emerged as a pioneer of "cynical realism," a style that writer Ben Davidson has characterized as a "mix of ennui and rogue humor." And while he is still best known for his figurative paintings and wood-block prints--in particular those featuring his trademark bald Everyman--the artist has focused increasingly on sculpture in recent years.

Fang's first solo museum exhibition in the US, staged recently in a thirty-five-hundred-square-foot space at the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar (a new venue near Denver), was dominated by bronze casts covered in gold leaf, its arresting centerpiece an untitled field of fifteen thousand tiny heads dated 2003-2006. Some of Fang's diminutive busts are unique, while others exist in multiples of up to fifty; the whole display filled most of one gallery's floor and made for a breathtaking sight.

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Each head was mounted on its own six to fourteen-inch metal pole, and although the poles' square bases were contiguous, the slight variations in height and the different directions in which the models leaned gave the installation as a whole a pleasing irregularity. If the array inevitably conjured the feeling of gazing across a soybean field, it seems more likely that Fang's intended allusion was to vast gatherings of people, perhaps evoking Tiananmen (he has depicted similar subjects in paintings). The emphasis on massed ranks of anonymous figures is unsurprising from a citizen of a country of more than 1. …

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