Wang Guangle: Duo Color

Installation View of Wang Guangle’s ‘Duo Color’ at Pace Gallery.
Wang Guangle, 180715, 2018. Courtesy of Pace Gallery.
Wang Guangle, 180723, 2018. Courtesy of Pace Gallery.
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Much has been made about “Chinese abstraction”,  a phrase that implies an aesthetic that diverges from western formalism.   Perhaps a case can be made when examining new ink painting with its many practitioners forging a link between a kind of abstract expressionism and the tradition of calligraphy.  But,  it becomes more challenging to make a case for a uniquely Chinese brand of abstract painting when considering the recent efforts of younger oil painters,  such as Wang Guangle,  Qu Xu,  and Li Shurui,  whose optics overlap with concerns that American and European painters have had for some time.  Still,  when regarding the work of Wang Guangle in particular,  it becomes clear that a strictly western interpretation leaves out much of what is most interesting about these mesmerizing paintings.

TEXT: Barbara Pollack
IMAGES: Courtesy of Pace Gallery & the artist

Installation View of Wang Guangle’s ‘Duo Color’ at Pace Gallery.

 

Wang Guangle paints every day in a meditative practice that imbues each of his canvases with the sensation of the passage of time.   Working from the edge of the surface to the center,  he gradually shifts shades of color until the resulting image appears as a dark void at the end of a hallway,  creating a convincing illusion of depth.  Entering one of his exhibitions is like stepping into a panopticon,  a room offering 360 degree views of surrounding cells and passageways.   Only when you approach a single painting and examine it closely,  can you see the laborious effort that went into its creation with hundreds upon hundreds of carefully placed brushstrokes arranged horizontally and vertically to create the central image of a rectangle.

While Wang Guangle has often worked monochromatically,  in this most recent exhibition,  he employed two opposing colors for each work.  Starting with a can of paint in one color,  he begins his process at the farthest most edges of the canvas.  He gradually adds the second hue to the first as he works his way to the center,  creating a gradation as subtle as a James Turrell installation at sunset.   The illusion of light is palpable,  all the more magical at close range when one can see that this incandescent composition is only the result of ordinary acrylic paint.  Often compared to Mark Rothko,   Wang Guangle equally makes works that convey a mystical aura with forms that radiate light without the assistance of electric bulbs.

In this exhibition,  the artist often paired two paintings,  using the same two hues but reversing the order.  For example,  in 180715 (2018)- the painting’s title refers to the date the work was finished–a misty lavender gradually gives way to a central rectangle of golden ochre,  while 181004,  2018,  begins with a golden edge that works it way to a dark purple center.  This doubling effect is most powerful in the pair of 181127 and 120716 in which bright pink meets a deep turquoise creating the optical illusion of forms popping off the background.   The same color combination is also present in 180723,  the most ephemeral work in the exhibition with its rosy center seemingly evaporating into the pale teal background.

 

Wang Guangle, 180715, 2018. Courtesy of Pace Gallery.
Wang Guangle, 180723, 2018. Courtesy of Pace Gallery.

 

These stunning visual effects risk distracting viewers from the underlying meditative state necessary to create these works.   Wang Guangle’s brush work is meticulous to the point of being repressive.  But it is within these restrictions that he finds his unique form of expression,  much as a monk may transcend the act of sitting still.   He is not the first artist to employ Zen-like practices to create minimalist works,  but he is so completely absorbed in his process that the final results fully convey the time it took to create each of these labor-intensive works.   Taking this into account when contemplating the works,  yields an exceptional calming influence,  as if the paintings are telling us to “pause” and “be still.”   Given the many distractions most gallery-goers face,  the thousands of thoughts that go through our heads as we try to concentrate on a work of art,  it is a miracle that Wang Guangle pulls off this moment of transcendence.  With minimal effort,  his works transport us to a different reality in ways that cannot quite be captured by the mere phrase “abstraction.”

 

 

Wang Guangle: Duo Color
Pace Gallery, New York
11 Jan to 9 Feb

 

 

About the artist

Wang Guangle (b. 1976, Fujian, China) received a BFA in oil painting from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2000. Wang has had 5 solo exhibitions and has participated in nearly 80 group exhibitions. The artist has been included in various international exhibitions at prominent institutions, notably Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Museum for Modern and Contemporary Art Bozen/Bolzano, Bozen, Italy; White Rabbit Art Museum, Sydney, Australia; The Orange County Museum of Art, California, U.S.A and Rubell Family Collection and Contemporary Arts Foundation, Miami, U.S.A. His works were included in Busan Biennale at Busan Cultural Center, Busan, Korea in 2010 and Prague Biennale 4 in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 2009. He currently lives and works in Beijing, China.

 

 


 

Barbara Pollack

Since 1994, Barbara Pollack has written on contemporary art for such publications as The New York Times, the Village Voice, Art in America, Vanity Fair and of course, Artnews, among many others. She is the author of the book, The Wild, Wild East: An American Art Critic’s Adventures in China and has written dozens of catalogue essays for a wide range of international artists. In addition to writing, Pollack is an independent curator who organized the exhibition, We Chat: A Dialogue in Contemporary Chinese Art, currently at Asia Society Texas and she is a professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has been awarded two grants from the Asian Cultural Council as well as receiving the prestigious Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writer Grant.

 

 

 
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