Signals from Heaven, Signals from Heaven

文-Yuan Fuca (富源),英文原文刊载于《ARTFORUM》2019年2月刊

This past summer, Zhao Yao first exhibited his ongoing project The Spirit Above All, 2015–. This piece, spanning 107,500 square feet and assembled from colored cloth, was placed for six months out in the sun on a snowy mountainside in Nangqian, Qinghai, before being shipped back to Beijing, where it was ceremonially installed on the field in Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium for a day from sunrise to sunset. The work demonstrated Zhao’s interest in the spirituality of contemporary life. The same fascination was also evident in “Signals from Heaven, Signals from Heaven,” an exhibition composed of nine hutlike sculptures scattered on a salmon-pink office carpet.

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赵要——混蛋,人生哪里有那么容易的啊!

文-毛竹  | ARTSHARD艺术碎片 

很难想象当赵要在北京公社为他的新作“有神的信号,有神的信号”布展时,内心想到的竟是上世纪八十年代最优秀也最有代表性的硬科幻电影《银翼杀手》。那部慢节奏且人文气十足的赛博朋克(cyber-punk)电影嘲讽了科幻界对未来世界的幼稚崇拜与盲目幻想,将未来世界冠以一种西方文明分崩离析之下东方文明作为主导的潮湿阴暗、美感颓废、情绪伤感的基调——影片中的反乌托邦色彩,对本质主义的质疑,无处不在的虚无主义,构成了这部电影之所以经久不衰的原因。

这也似乎暗合了赵要本人在其最新作品“有神的信号,有神的信号”中的精神气质:九个宁玛派(红教)喇嘛修行的帐篷错落分布,帐篷里各色LED显示屏播放着不同的TED演讲内容——传统与当代,精神与物质,本质与还原之间的紧张关系,在“有神的信号,有神的信号”这件作品的诸多细节线索中不断得到回溯。

“宁玛”在藏语中是“旧”“古”的意思,相应于其后三大具有革新意味的传承派别,宁玛派是一个没有寺院、组织涣散,也没有系统教义和完整僧侣制度的“古旧”教派。展出使用的帐篷房子是宁玛派喇嘛每年为期一百天的静修时间中必须长时间寄身其中的用品,它们是喇嘛的私物,前后呈方形,内部会根据个人的偏好采用不同的装饰,外部则多为红色和白色。在赵要的创作中,每个帐篷都被置入了一个根据构成google图标的蓝红绿黄四色元素设计的纯色LED屏幕,每个屏幕的颜色都跟帐篷的颜色相和谐。观者从帐篷外部的缝隙中可以窥视到内部LED屏幕上的内容:九个帐篷对应九个截然不同的TED演讲。赵要将每个演讲的掌声、互动和图像去掉,仅用蓝红绿黄四色纯色作为底色,配以白色的中英文演讲词。从帐篷外部看来,纯色LED屏的冷光与红色白色的帐篷颜色两相呼应,传统的宗教与最新的技术两两结合,或许这正是赵要所追求的“银翼杀手”的效果。 Details »

Cosmic Wonder

Zhao Yao, The Power of Nature, 2016–18. The Workers’ Stadium, Beijing. Photo: UCCA.

EARLIER THIS MONTH, the artist Zhao Yao experienced what it’s like to be a pop star, preparing for a one-show-only event at the Workers’ Stadium in Beijing. Built on the tenth anniversary of the new China in 1959, the stadium has been a cultural and sports center for the past six decades, accommodating various activities, but mostly football games and pop music concerts in recent years. It’s also surrounded by the most popular nightclubs in Beijing.

To the stadium, Zhao brought his 108,000-square-foot painting, The Power of Nature. Think of it as a massive rug made of cloth and fabric, on which are abstract patterns that are typical to Zhao’s long-term painting practice. (He’s known for appropriating colorful but intricate pictures from brain-teaser books in his paintings.) At 6 AM on May 18th, Zhao and some fifty people from his team loaded the rolled work in and unraveled it in the football field.

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Three leading artists explore the complex notion of a multi-ethnic national identity in post-globalization China
BY COLIN CHINNERY FRIEZE MAGAZINE

While I was writing this article, in February 2018, the artist Zhao Yao received permission to rent the iconic Workers’ Stadium in north-eastern Beijing for one day in May. His intention was to show an abstract composition on fabric, measuring 116 × 86 m, which was produced in 2016 and initially displayed 5,000 m above sea level on a mountainside in Qinghai province on the Tibetan Plateau. Independently, last October, Zhao Zhao brought a camel and its keeper from the far western region of Xinjiang to Tang Contemporary Art in Beijing. His exhibition, ‘Desert Camel’, was a coda to the major work Project Taklamakan (2015–16), for which the artist transported a functioning refrigerator to the middle of the Taklamakan Desert. Zhuang Hui, meanwhile, has been visiting the Qilian Mountains in Gansu province for the past seven years,  exploring the geography and culture of the region through photography, video and installation. All three artists live and work in Beijing, yet have spent years working on  projects relating to the far west of China, a region loaded with historical and political contention.Gansu, Qinghai, Tibet and Xinjiang collectively form the great western flank of modern China. Consisting largely of impassable mountains and inhospitable deserts, these vast regions represent about 40 percent of the country’s landmass but house only four percent of its population. Areas of vital strategic importance to modern China, they are also home to peoples with their own ethnic and cultural identities, which frequently clash with Beijing’s objectives. Consequently, it has been an important part of modern Chinese politics to develop the notion of a multi-ethnic national consciousness.

Zhao Yao, Spirit Above All, 2016–17, project documentation, Nangqian County. Courtesy: the artist

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赵要:它就是对“崇高”进行解压缩的一次过程

《艺术世界》谭昉莹 采访整理

2016年11月23日,一幅长116米宽86米大型画布从青海省玉树藏族自治区州囊谦县白扎乡的摩耶寺山脚下开始了一段“爬坡”的征程。作为赵要2012-2013年曾在佩斯伦敦展出的同名项目“精神高于一切”的延展,这次的“晒布仪式”是艺术家从城市经验出发,对“精神性”和“崇高性”的一次再探索。而把地点放在了海拔近5000米高的山顶无人区,通过仁波切和当地200多人的共同协作将这一尺寸接近于巨型唐卡的“画”在荒芜的山坡表面缓慢铺开,赵要认为这是一种做作品的反向过程,不再是将所有的探索浓缩在一个作品里,而是像把压缩包一个个打开,把里面的各种意义、想法在过程中呈现在眼前。

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赵要 |最后一个鸡蛋  ZhaoYao |The last egg

赵要谈最后一个鸡蛋

采访:杜可柯 | Artforum 中文

现居北京的观念艺术家赵要一直关注艺术形式背后起决定作用的诸多因素本文中赵要讲述了此次在北京公社最新个展最后一个鸡蛋的整体构想以及艺术在当代社会中如何通过对信息的调度和再处理成为捕捉和改变集体意识的有效载体展览将持续到108

我一直觉得在我的创作里没有什么个性可言所谓的特点个性其实是通过分析集体意识里的现象我称之为信息再对其进行重新加工再造而形成的而这种特点也是外部集体对所有这些东西重新审视之后产生的认识具体到这次展览我们花了大半年的时间制作一种人造蛋壳涂料试验了很多次最后在一名树脂化工专业的教授帮助下确定了现在的这个配方蛋壳涂料涂在第一个展厅的四面墙上但有特定的图案”。这些图案实际取自各行各业用来做数据分析的曲线图我选了波动比较大的7-8张图拼成一圈从形式上看这些锯齿状的起伏线很像剥开的蛋壳加上涂料的颜色一进门就会改变观众对白色墙体的印象让原来展厅的白墙看上去很有营养像鸡蛋的蛋白整个展览强调的也是这种调度关系作为生命和营养象征的蛋壳与作为理性分析工具的曲线图结合在一起能够引导出我们内部的很多情结无论是对自然的潜意识欲望还是对理性的依赖这跟我最近在四方美术馆展出的作品宇宙黑在旋转》(2016)有一定联系作品中铝板上涂的黑色颜料是奔驰汽车的一款喷漆这么工业化的原料却被叫做宇宙黑”。不光是奔驰所有国产车进口车都有类似的颜色命名系统我觉得这在某种程度上揭示了我们内心对大自然或风景的一种潜意识欲望或抽象认识那件作品比较有意思的一点是,“宇宙黑这个名字跟天空以及整个装置仰望天空跟随太阳的动作之间永远处于某种循环关系中这次的作品同样如此一方面我们需要用曲线图这种理性工具去总结过去分析未来获得某种可控性而另一方面蛋壳的易碎特质永远是不可控的就像用这种涂料涂墙你不可能控制得了最终呈现的效果总有意外发生墙面总在不断剥落

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Yishu典藏国际版 July/August 2015, volume 14, number 4. P28-43.

邱文宝 /Voon Pow Bartlett    翻译:姚青

黑色方块的冒险:抽象艺术与社会1915-2015,于2015年1月15日在伦敦白教堂美术馆(Whitechapel Gallery)对公众开放。白教堂美术馆的新闻通稿称其为“一场意义重大的新展览,梳理着从1915年至今一个世纪抽象艺术的脉络……”1展览的目的在于“重新审视”艺术、社会和政治之间的关系,给几何抽象艺术之进化带来新认识。展览的一百多件作品来自80位现当代艺术家,其中一些艺术家更是享有跨国甚至洲际知名度,例如俄罗斯的卡西米尔·马列维奇(Kasimir Malevich)——这在他著名画作黑与白至上主义组合(Black and White Suprematist Composition, 1915)诞生一百周年之际也就不足为奇了。其他如雷贯耳的大名还有:亚历山大·罗德琴科(Alexander Rodchenko),卡尔·安德烈(Carl Andre),丹·弗拉文(Dan Flavin),罗斯玛丽·特洛科尔(Rosemarie Trockel),特奥·凡·度斯堡(Theo Van Doesburg),皮埃·蒙德里安(Piet Mondrian)。展览使用了美术馆两层楼的绝大部分空间。为我们展现了结构主义艺术从兴起之初在俄罗斯与欧洲作为先锋艺术的革命性开始,到2015年遍布世界各地的漫漫过程。其中包括了中国、中东和南美。

对馆长伊娃娜·布雷兹维克(Iwona Blazwick)来说,抽象艺术是“是进步地平线上的岬角。它在研究上的空白意味着令人兴奋的未知元素和充满想象空间的多重可能”2在早期几何抽象艺术提议与“新型社会组织”建立联系的基础上。新闻通稿说明了本次展览的四个主题归纳如下:1)“乌托邦”,想象了一个新的超越等级和阶级的理想社会;2)“建筑学”,展现了抽象艺术如何加强社会转型的空间;3)“传播”,观察了抽象艺术调动彻底改革的可能性;4)“日常生活”,追寻了抽象艺术如何渗透到视觉艺术的各个层面,从公司标识到纺织品设计。

我将先快速评估一下展览评论和思想前提,接着我将深入地讨论两位参与展览的中国艺术家。其他的展评也提到了该展览中几何图形的多样性和可塑性。阿拉斯太尔·斯玛特(Alastair Smart)在电讯报中写道,“基于简单的方块,圆圈,三角形,和长方形图案;展览展现了艺术家在过去的一百年里在抽象艺术中体现出的不可思议的创造性”;Time Out杂志也写道“这是一场不是方块的几何展出”。也有其它嘲讽式的声音,声称展览呈现出“旨在改变世界的艺术…有着宏大的革命性方式…而缺乏普通观察”;卫报的劳拉·卡明(Laura Cumming)注意到,“马列维奇在没有背景语境的情况下呈现于这场展览里,没有提及它原本在立体主义中的根源和一战的毁灭。”4 Details »

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Painting Of Thought

很有想法的繪畫

2015.01.15 – 02.26 | PACE HONG KONG

Written by Zhao Yao

Painting of Thought is a very apt and fitting title for these works. The two books that provided the source images for these paintings say the following on their covers:

  1. A magical book full of challenging wisdom, geniuses around the world are playing 1000 Thinking Games. Why are Japanese people so smart? An American had a sudden realization that thinking is built through play. (A must read for the never-surrendering Chinese. Nanhai Press, 2005.)
  2. Top international thinking games to rapidly unlock your mind’s potential. The 600 thinking games played by all the top students in the world will help you grasp effective methods for enhancing cognitive abilities, heightening powers of observation, analysis, logic, deduction, judgment, imagination, creativity, memory, thinking and action. The more you play, the smarter and more successful you will become. (600 Thinking Games from a century of Harvard students. Huawen Press, 2009.)

From the first painting, Painting of Thought has a sense of mission. How do we look at a painting? How do we understand a painting? How do we create a painting? This series approaches fundamental questions of art from the perspective of painting, particularly abstract painting. Unlike conceptual art in the general sense, this series is not expressing certain criticisms or concepts but instead practicing criticisms or concepts. First, everything here is readymade. Readymade images, readymade colors, readymade fabric, and a readymade understanding of painting. Furthermore, these readymade understandings and concepts of painting are produced by these readymade images, forms and materials. This also includes the understanding and ways of thinking about painting produced by existing art history education and artistic experience. The various visible visual elements and invisible abstract thoughts serve as the fundamental elements of creation, just like the colors and brushstrokes of painting, and they are combined together according to an internal logic and order.

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Zhao Yao: Spirit Above All

Voon Pow Bartlett | Yishu Volume 12, Number 4, July/August 2013

According to Pace London Gallery press release, the artworks for Spirit Above Allwere brought to Tibet to be blessed by a “Living Buddha.”[1] This is documented through mural photographs of the Tibetan landscape that provided the backdrop on the walls of the gallery upon which the paintings are hung. The press release also informs us that the artist is “fascinated by the relationship between art and its audience,” creating an “on-going cycle of self-assessment, and reconstruction of the old to produce the new, a process the artist describes as ‘self-consumption’.”[2] Zhao Yao expresses the wish to challenge how art is perceived, that ‘‘the attention should never be on the paintings themselves, which I deliberately repeat in different series to deconstruct their visual power, but the concept behind the forms. I am interested in the way we look at exhibitions and how our pre-existing knowledge, whether cultural, religious, or political, affects our perception of art. I like to provide context for my works, but not to disclose my own opinion so the discussion can remain open. In the same way that the puzzles I use aim at training one’s brain to think logically, I want my exhibitions to challenge people’s conventional way of looking at art.”[3]

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Zhao Yao: Serial Performance

 July 23 , 2013 | Tag in: LEAP 21 | TEXT:Sasha Zhao / TRANSLATION: Katy Pinke | 中文

So as to preserve a sense of mystery—and weaken, to as great an extent as possible, the audience’s romanticized versions of what happened—this is the only “evidence” available to prove that the event truly transpired.

In his work , Zhao Yao has found a sound and sustainable mode of exhibition that he calls “serial performance.” Born out of his suspicion with regard to all of the formalized complacencies created by contemporary art, the method allows him to engage in ongoing strikes against mechanisms of the exhibition as well as of his own working process.

In “You Can’t See Me You Can’t See Me,” his 2012 solo exhibition at Beijing Commune, Zhao Yao was extreme, nearly exactly copying his 2011 “I Am Your Night.” Some of the same works were made with different material, or with enlarged mass or geometric proportions, while others were borrowed from collectors who had already purchased them, for the purpose of re-exhibition. The show even opened on the same day, one year later. The result of the 2012 exhibition made Zhao aware of the fact that even when an artist does nothing, the audience is still able to enjoy the same thrill that would come with seeing an entirely new exhibition. Worth noting is that Zhao still identifies himself as a member of the media. He is therefore both a creator for and a professional member of the contemporary art audience, and uses his own exhibitions to test out the significance and efficacy of exhibitions themselves, the traditional relationship between artist and audience—formed as it is by the same one-time-only exhibition dynamic. This way of thinking is also extended to his latest solo exhibition, “Spirit Above All.”

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Zhao Yao Spirit Above All at Pace London

中文   | phaidon.com

Chinese artist tells Phaidon about 200 mile journey to Tibet to have new paintings blessed by living Buddha.We were reflecting on Pace Gallery founder Arne Glimcher’s views on Chinese art as we took in a show that opened at Pace London yesterday. The works by Beijing-based artist Zhao Yao in his exhibition Spirit Above All are a prime example of Glimcher’s assertion of the importance of the narrative in Chinese art right now. We’ll recap briefly in case you missed it first time round.

“There’s an urgency there that does not exist here (in the west). The Cultural Revolution destroyed the entire history of China for a generation. So you’re dealing with the oldest country in the world and the newest country in the world and that schism between who they were and who they are and what is happening in China – that’s the narrative.”

As we know, understanding or following this narrative can be tricky at times but Zhao Yao, a young Chinese artist currently showing at Pace London 6-10 Lexington Street is inviting the viewer to reflect on their own perceptions of his work, saying the interaction with the artwork and the self-consciousness of the viewer is at the crux of it.

Spirit Above All comprises seven new geometric works by the artist, painted in black, white and grey acrylic on denim – a material recognised for its durability. And that last point is important because as part of the process, Zhao travelled with the (between two and three metres tall) paintings on a 200 mile journey of discovery to Tibet to have them blessed by a living Buddha.

The journey was arduous and the paintings were damaged en-route, something Zhao had expected and planned for – as best he could.

“The trip took 10 days. It was 20 degrees below freezing and 5,000 metres above sea level,” he told us. “The oxygen level is very thin in the winter and I was worried at one point that the paintings would be too damaged,” he told Phaidon. “But the villagers were all aware that I was there to see The 9th Chakme Rinpoche and were helpful. Details »

Zhao Yao: Spirit Above All

中文 2013.05.16 Thu, by Christopher Moore Translated    文: 梁舒涵

Painting is difficult and is getting more difficult. Most of the most interesting and provocative art of recent decades has not involved paint at all. Challenged first by photography and then by the rise of conceptual art in all its forms, including performance, the potential for painting, perhaps the most ancient art form, to contribute to new thinking now seems exhausted, condemned to be a talent of social instruction, an middle-class pedagogic discipline, like piano playing or sonnet composition, redundant and effete.

And yet its power to hold our gaze remains compelling. So what are we to do? How we expand its definitions now, our understanding of its conceptual registers, historically and as physical action, must be approached in unexpected ways. Its basic definition of the application of pigment to a surface must be challenged. Painting may even become a practice that may not involve anything we traditionally understand as paint at all (look, for instance, at the work of Katharina Grosse, Ann Veronica Janssens or Wolfgang Laib) Details »

Zhao Yao: You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me

Reviews | October 18 , 2012 |  LEAP 16 |Guo Juan(郭娟)| 中文

Zhao Yao’s latest solo exhibition, “You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me,” is an almost total replication of last year’s “I Am Your Night.” It would be easy to take this exhibition as one-time-only event, a disposable strategy; such an opinion would not be baseless. “You Can’t See Me” is a direct attack on the exhibition system and contemporary art production. It is not particularly fresh, nor is it difficult to comprehend. Its effectiveness is closely related to the present environment. The exhibition can be seen as an active response to the sluggish, pressurized status quo, pronouncing a warning without breaking the rules. Zhao puts a variety of questions on the table, from the issue of newness in contemporary art to the significance of duplication, serving as starting points for deeper discussions. Upon closer inspection, Zhao’s courage lies not in his grievances with the exhibition mechanism, or in the risk of raising doubts and conspiracy theories—well-trained audiences are unlikely to be moved, and anyway, perceptible, surface-level “newness” is not a necessary condition of contemporary art discussions—but in the bold, inward-looking move of putting himself on a point of no return: where can one go from there? This easy escape serves as the starting point for a more challenging artistic journey.

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The “Ah” (ha) Moment

Edward Sanderson | artslant.com

Last year’s solo show of the work of Zhao Yao, his first with Beijing Commune, left me with a less than positive feeling. To then have that (rather strong) feeling overturned by this new presentation of what is ostensibly the same work is surprising.

The development of Zhao’s two solo shows with Beijing Commune are important starting points for an analysis of this change of heart. In 2011 Zhao’s first solo show, entitled I Am Your Night, collected together a set of works that I disliked for being overly derivative of current stylistic clichés in internationalised contemporary art. Their aggressive shapes, mannerist constructions, and vibrant colours all seemed to smack of a style seen too often elsewhere in the world and possibly revealing a symptom of a globalisation of artworks. One nice touch however were the strings of the Chinese character 啊 (an “ah” of various kinds of interjection) in long, pulsing lines around the room, following the walls and floors to provide a physical thread holding the other objects together.

The current show is pitched as a continuation and manipulated repeat of I Am Your Night, demonstrated by its opening on the same date, and using many of the same works (several borrowed back from collectors for this purpose), in much the same arrangements, or adjusting the originals in scale or material to create new versions of the objects. The title of this show, You can’t see me, you can’t see me, is obscure, but perhaps mirrors this aspect of repetition. Details »

“You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me” 

by  IONA

If, as Wallace Stevens once remarked, “Sight is a museum of things seen”, then Zhao Yao bore this out with his most recent show.

Heaving open Beijing Commune’s metal door and stepping into the light, one paused in one’s tracks, surveying a scene which seemed strangely familiar. Densely spiked silhouettes, a coiled figure, fabric paintings and bent sculptural lines for an instant entertained one’s glance before memory intervened – puncturing the expectation of a brand new exhibition. Gradually, and with a mixture of discomfort and intrigue, it became clear that this was the sight of things already seen.

For “You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me” Zhao has effectively restaged “I Am Your Night”, his first solo outing of last year. Some works were simply shown again or recalled from collectors; others, such as the clicking TV sets on the floor (“You Can’t See Me No.2”, 2012) which now numbered not two, but three, were multiplied or compressed; where last year there had been a blue human figure in a fencing mask, this time one appeared in white. The two exhibitions opened on exactly the same day, 12th June, one year apart.

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你看不见我,你看不见我

文-杨北辰 | Artforum 中文网

在“你看不见我,你看不见我”中,赵要抛出了一个经典的希区柯克式的麦高芬(MacGuffin):当我们试图沿着既定的路径去追求展示效果时,便会发觉遭遇的其实是悬置的事件。艺术家在此布置了智力陷阱,将破坏性因素埋藏在观者习以为常的认知路线中,同时也向“业内人士”以调侃的语气发问:生产“新”的展览是否是艺术行业默认的游戏规则以及全部意义所在?

将之前一年的展览(几乎)原样复制,使得“你看不见我,你看不见我”可以称得上是一场“虚拟”(simulated)的展览,或至少是艺术家针对当代艺术的现实展开的一场虚拟的批判游戏。重现一场展览,或者让“旧”展览复活,在此的意义是在亵渎的意义上对于消费性展示方案的一次嬉仿。“虚拟”首先在“错时”(anachronism)的名目下展开:如果说当代艺术的生产以“新”作为其自我周转的命脉,力求持续创造“当代性”的价值与诉求,那么赵要力图批判的恰是这种关于“新”的时间意识形态。“错时”意味着在展厅中“过去”被再次遣返,而当下则在这种闪回(flash-back)中趋于消解——不同时段的重叠、纠缠使得过去与现在变得同步与共时化,不可分辨且相互让渡。而正是在这个过程中,展示的时间生产体制被打破,“不合时宜”导致了真正的时间差异的现身:在这种虚拟的时间粘连中,赵要以强硬的姿态获取了一种独立的时间体验,一种可以不断重新开始的姿态,一种对于历史再建构的权力。 Details »

Don’t trust me: Zhao Yao

Time Out finds an artist who asks as many questions as he answers
You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me is on at the Beijing Commune from June 12 until August 12Back in 2008, when firereworks rained down upon the Beijing Olympics and affirmed China’s status as a rising global power, Zhao Yao produced the video piece ‘I Love Beijing 999’. Made from more than 30,000 still photographs, each featured the Beijing cityscape with the sun at its centre.‘I didn’t have much to do at the time, so I spent around 200 days hopping onto buses,’ recalls Zhao. ‘I must have criss-crossed the city on nearly every bus route in Beijing.’ The images were all taken from bus windows, and are a journey through the city in space and time, taking viewers through the deep, dry winter with its pale, hard-blue skies and faraway sun to the melting summer of the capital’s Olympic heyday.That work’s beauty and symmetry stands in stark contrast to the pieces now littering his studio. Made from flat wooden boards slotted together like paper cut-outs, crooked paint-sculptures – covered in gunk-like masses of acrylic, wire and other materials – lie among keyless keyboards, an electric saw, assorted spray cans and other evidence of Zhao’s recent endeavours. In places, edges of the sculptures are cut into a close pattern of spikes, reminiscent of a digital sound wave.

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Glad Gazing at the Commune

I am your Night

by Iona Whittaker | artslant.com

Zhao Yao was amongst the emerging artists featured in Taikang Space’s “51m2” series  that stretched from early 2009 to the beginning of this year; one suspects he will not be the only one to have a solo exhibition this or next year partly as a result. The pieces that occupied a single room at Taikang – the graphite-obscured bank notes, coins rubbed smooth, a chat-room-charted version of Beijing time, a long length of material inscribed with a series of numbers – do not reappear here. What does reappear is a strange sculpture effectively composed of a dark green line — with a black sludgy substance sticking to its length in places – that is bent and curved into a strange 3-D form; big but weightless, twisted and somewhat dark but somehow dynamic, not ugly. Attendant to this odd conceptual beast is a Chinese character pasted in a line along the floor and round the walls at floor level, swelling big and small in a wavelike fashion, the sound of which when read aloud is an endless “aaaa.”  It is at first a perplexing and fun discovery to make.

Simply described, Zhao Yao’s current exhibition at Beijing Commune brings together a number of individual works that seem to sit oddly – and enjoyably – together because they appear at once corresponding and juxtaposed. The individual pieces are arranged on a dark floor in the white gallery space: the aforementioned line-sculpture, figurative objects with exploding, zigzagged-line edges, other objects with coloured wooden bases reminiscent of a pop-art POW! shape, found material collages, and a “video” work composed of television sets placed opposite each other at a distance; periodically, block colour flashes across their screens along with a loud clicking sound, like a human tongue mimicking the plop of water. The TVs appear to communicate with these intermittent clicks that at first take the visitor by surprise – a Dada-esque diction arising when it chooses in the otherwise quiet space. Details »

View of “I Am Your Night,” 2011

Lee Ambroz | Artforum.com

In “I Am Your Night,” Zhao Yao’s latest exhibition, a series of childishly bright and geometric paintings ironically titled “A Painting of Thought” (all works 2011) mock the profundity of a rising undercurrent of young canvas-favoring Conceptual artists who work in Beijing today. Indeed, many of these artists have shown at the same gallery that Zhao now fills with dripping wire and spiked wood constructions, televisions that come alive at the sound of a tongue clicking, and his so-called “thoughtful” paintings, copied directly from optical teasers and perception puzzles onto tartan cloth. His ugly aesthetic and holistic approach to the gallery represent an almost magical attempt to puncture the sanctity of the exhibition space and demystify the painting process.

He focuses his subversive energies on challenging the validity of painting and confounding viewer expectations. The exhibition envelops visitors like a constructed “situation” in the vein of Guy Debord: Here, amid the tangle of screaming sculptures, critical self-awareness is encapsulated by text spelling out the exclamation AAAH, a single repeated Chinese character that crisscrosses the floor in long diagonals. Details »

ZhaoYao: I Am Your Night

中文 October 12 , 2011 | LEAP | Reviews Date: 2011.06.12-2011.07.31 

The phrase “I am your night” could essentially be interpreted as a blunt statement aimed at the audience, and especially at the artists, or socalled experts, who showed up to Zhao Yao’s latest solo show. And if this audience adopt this rather poetic phrase for their own rhetorical needs—by turning it into one of those stock phrases used when responding to an exhibition—then they’ve unfortunately missed the joke. For in comparison to the work featured in the exhibition, the title seems to be reserved for those in the know.

I first encountered Zhao Yao’s work at his solo exhibition in the 51m2 series at Taikang Space in 2010. This time, at Beijing Commune, Zhao’s intention seems to be to push his practice even further towards its fundamental purpose. At last year’s solo show, he used a pencil to meticulously color in the banknotes of various nations, leaving only the smiling face of their leaders. Although not a particularly refreshing idea, this piece did succeed in raising a smile in those who shared with the artist an appreciation for simple logic and subtle transmutation. However, it could very well be this empathic event that engendered greater suspicion among the audience present this time around.
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