Liu Wei, True Dimension No. 18. Photo courtesy of William Wang
Liu Wei: Colors | Exhibition at UCCA
Having come of age in the heady period of rapid urbanization and artistic flourishing that preceded the Beijing Olympics, Liu Wei is heavily influenced by the instability and fluctuation peculiar to twenty-firstcentury China, in particular with respect to its physical and intellectual landscape. Along with his fellow members of the late-1990s “Post-Sense Sensibility” formation, Liu Wei has an acute haptic sensitivity stemming from a period when exhibition space for contemporary art in China’s major cities was still scarce.
Liu Wei, Puzzle, 2014. Image courtesy of UCCA
The artists of this coterie began their careers showing in basements, unfinished shopping malls, and other non-traditional venues; from these experiences Liu Wei derived an aptitude for manipulating spatial awareness, often toward a maximally disorienting and affective visual impact. His UCCA presentation explores this idea in its intricately sprawling layout, with artworks variously forming labyrinthian paths, overwhelming monoliths, and cathedral-like chambers within the gallery.
Liu Wei, Enigma, 2014. Image courtesy of UCCA
Liu Wei’s art draws on a wide range of formal references, including urban planning, commodity culture, fashion, architecture, technology, and biology. In many places inside the exhibition, Liu Wei strips down the familiar and reassembles its incongruous parts in ways uncanny and abstract. His adaptations of readymade objects pursue purely aesthetic propositions even as they reveal subtle traces of their industrial origins.
Liu Wei, Crucifixion, 2014. Image courtesy of UCCA
The artist’s idiosyncratic repurposing of everyday materials is present throughout the exhibition. In conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Liu Wei has mentioned his interest in the uniform density of books, their similarity to stone as a material for construction. The sculptures incorporating compressed books, Look! Books and Enigma, mark a particular departure for the artist’s practice, transitioning away from the paper cityscapes he began in 2006 to monumental geometric solids and large-scale, abstract architectural forms.