Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Adam Monohon reviews Multiple Perspectives: New Works by Xie Xiaoze at Chambers Fine Art in New York City.
Mass media plays an inescapable role in everyday life. The printing press, photography, the internet, and most recently the rapid growth of smartphone usage have all dramatically altered the way information is distributed and consumed. Xie Xiaoze’s paintings—currently on view at Chambers Fine Art—reflect on the various forms of communication that shape our lives. The exhibition includes three distinct groups of paintings that, assembled together, describe the progression of mass media.
The first of these three groups is composed of softly rendered, warm-toned depictions of stacks of books; the second, sharp-edged and tightly cropped paintings of newspapers; the last, near facsimiles of images taken from Weibo, a rough equivalent to Twitter. Xie’s book paintings are the most abstract of all; the brushwork is broad and irregular, though highly controlled. The palette of these paintings is warm, considerably warmer than that of the others, while the scale is large yet intimate. These paintings convey a deep nostalgia for the book, one that is heightened by Xie’s choice of old and beautifully bound volumes.
Xie’s Weibo paintings stand in stark contrast to the intimacy and the warmth of his book paintings. These works, done on comparatively small aluminum panels, capture the experience of viewing photographs on backlit, hand-sized screens. The images themselves are the sort of sensationalist pictures that the internet seems to favor. One depicts a lone, crumbling house, stranded in the middle of a highway, and another, a smog-choked freeway; both are products of reckless modernization. Between this group of Weibo paintings and the richly toned depictions of books are paintings of the front pages of newspapers.
Whereas Xie’s Weibo paintings are cold and distancing, and his book paintings warm and enveloping, these paintings rest in a safe middle ground. Done in an exceptionally realistic manner, they appear more like photographic enlargements than paintings. Through capturing the juxtaposition of different columns and stressing the way text and image from the back side of the page is subtly visible on the front, Xie brings attention to the massive quantity of information found in daily newspapers, highlighting the near overload of information found in each. Xie’s work ultimately forces the viewer to ponder the various media that infiltrate our day-to-day lives and to question their relative merits and disadvantages.
Multiple Perspectives: New Works by Xie Xiaoze is on view at Chambers Fine Art through April 12, 2014.
Adam Monohon is a student in the undergraduate History of Art and Design program at the Pratt Institute. He is especially interested in photography and contemporary Chinese art.