They Rise When Vernal Breezes Blow

June 22 – August 3, 2019


Exhibition Walkthrough Video

Han Bing
Peng Ke
Mo Kong
Wang Haiyang
Wang Huimeng
Wang Jinsong
Yang Shaobin
Zhou Li
Zhang Xiaogang

Make Room is proud to present They Rise When Vernal Breezes Blow, a presentation of works that collectively search for meaningful and poetic responses to one’s inherent desire to live. The artists in this exhibition were born in China between the momentous 1950s and 1990s, a period of time that saw vastly transformative social, economic, and cultural shifts in the country. The works in this show are impulsive, accumulative, and introspective, while revealing the time and space their creators have lived in. Many of these artists embodied a new turn of phrase in their practice, namely “transnationalism,” as art critic Barbara Pollack describes, “a hybrid identity formed from the many places they had lived and influences they had studied.” [1] These artistic forms oscillate from the response of the external happening to identifying with the self, but all the while celebrating this tenacious force of vitality within humanity.

The overlay of construction facades on landscapes is an ongoing concern in Han Bing’s painting. During her time living in New York, she captured the arbitrary and unpredictable forms across the city with her phone camera, which she then distilled into abstraction. Web (2018) is a painting accumulated in layers between transparent and opaque marks representing the overlap of the cityscape. On the other hand, Porcelain (2018) is a painted reproduction of a photograph of a porcelain doll she encountered in an exhibition, where the rendered color overlay transforms the still painting into a unified identity.

Through Peng Ke’s photograph, one could peek into the colorful corners of China’s smaller cities, exploring the experience of living in a fast-developing urban environment. Ke’s primary concern is with the relationships between the human condition of urban spaces and the collective experiences of the people there.

Mo Kong’s work reflects his long-standing interests in the natural sciences, such as geology, biology, and botany. To him, the self-research process is highly synchronized with the recognition of our own position in complex historical and social events. In his project on “American Honey Made by American Bees ,” he found that Honey bees are originally from Africa, but after two migration movements, they arrived in central Asia and southern Europe. The first time honey bees came to the North American continent was in 1622 with European immigration. This species’ introduction and honey trade are highly synchronized and associated with the history of human migration.  With the increasingly crucial immigration policies of today, he started research on the 1980’s — 2000’s Chinese immigrants, who came to the US by migrating to other Asian countries first. His works posts questions on how long it will take us to be accepted by the local community and how much his culture will be altered during the transplantation? Under the general category of American Asians, is one’s ethnic culture distinguished or misrepresented?

Coming from a printmaking background, Wang Haiyang combines the connecting forms of painting and animation to expand the rhetorical scope of these two media. In Wall Dust, Wang continues in his signature style rooted in sketching with chalk on sandpaper, constructing a dazzling world reminiscent of the cinematic language of Sergei Parajanov in its poetic leaps of imagination. In this video, the imagery and symbolism of each frame are multivalent, making a series of connections through free association, while embodying the sequential “traces” of before and after, representation and erasure.

Drawing upon research on a systematic body of texts and scholarly tradition in the Western cultural discourse, Wang Huimeng’s practice spans performance, installation, video, sculpture, and the Internet, illustrating the structure and employment of cultural domination. In Orientalism, Edward Said famously identifies the links between linguistics and anatomy, specifying that a learned Orientalist’s attitude was often “that of a scientist who surveyed a series of textual fragments,” and it’s not the Orient that’s given on the page, but “a truncated exaggeration” of it. Utilizing this canonical approach in its most literal sense, Wang’s sculpture This Might Not Be the Darkest Time of Your Life… or It Might! culls textual objects from Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, where an American sailor relates his trip down the Yangtze Kiang in a stream-of-consciousness narration, presenting the Orient as an exotic locale filled with visions of cruelty, terror, sublimity, hostility, and barbaric splendor. In Wang’s work, these restored textual fragments, framed by a scientific (and what Said would call celibate) structure, against what they initially represented, form a new reality. The previous imagination of the East becomes the material, and the East becomes a performed experience of the Western narrator himself in an almost comical way.

Wang Jinsong’s practice was initially deeply-rooted in traditional Chinese brush painting as he was initially trained in school. Each one of Wang’s works mocks and teases all manner of worldly affairs, particularly those supposedly essential and momentous events that are nonetheless also clichés. The smoke(2018) reflects his recent exploration of western painting tradition with Chinese ink painting technique since he relocated to the U.S.

In Zhou Li’s painting, the artist explores the relationship between herself and her surroundings, explaining: ‘The way people normally view the world is as through a window, from inside out or outside in, but I try to stand in the middle. I see myself from a neutral point of view, and I see the world from a neutral point of view at the same time.’ With her previous experience living and studying in both China and Europe, her abstract works can be considered in dialogue with contemporary Western art – in particular, the paintings of Mark Rothko or Cy Twombly – but also with Chinese masters of calligraphy.

Since coming to prominence in the late 1990s, Yang Shaobin has been producing paintings, installations, and videos crowded with haunting human figures, expressive of his deep concern with the effects of political, social, and economic forces on an individual’s life.

 Zhang Xiaogang is one of the great Chinese artists who fully experienced one of the most turbulent times in Chinese history, everything from the Cultural Revolution to the tremendous social changes that China has experienced in the past decades. Zhang Xiaogang always emphasizes that his work is not so much about history on a ‘macro level,’ but more about the psychological impact of those changes on the individual. That is precisely what makes his work so powerful: with his portraits of different generations of Chinese people, he shows the weight of significant changes to ordinary people. And that the social context is never restricted to an individual, but that every individual is part of a broader context.

 Han Bing was born in Shandong, China, in 1986. She received a MFA from Parsons the New School of Design, New York, and also holds a MFA and a BFA from Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. She has had two solo exhibitions with Antenna Space in Shanghai, and is currently based in New York and Los Angeles.

 Peng Ke was born in Changsha, Hunan in 1992. She works with images and writes, while living between Los Angeles and Shanghai. Graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Photography, she received Magnum Foundation and ChinaFile's Abigail Cohen fellowship in 2017. She published her first book Salt Ponds (Jiazazhi Press, 2018) and was given the New Talent Award in 2018. She received fellowships and was an artist-in-residence at Center of Photography at Woodstock, ACRE and The Lighthouse Works.

 Mo Kong has been the subject of solo exhibition at Artericambi Gallery, Verona. Chashama, New York. Queens Museum Biennale 2018, New York. CUE Art Foundation, New York (2019). He received fellowship from Triangle art association 2018; Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture,2017; Mass Moca Studio Residency, 2016; Vermont Studio Center, 2016; Gibney Performance Center, 2016; Chashama, 2015.

Haiyang Wang is a Chinese artist living in Beijing. Haiyang combines the forms of painting and animation to expand the rhetorical scope of these two media. More recently, Wang’s work has begun venturing into sculpture and installations. Wang’s works have been selected and received critical acclaim by more than 50 International festivals. In 2010, Haiyang Wang’s first animation movie Freud, Fish and Butterfly won a Grand Prize at the Holland Animation Film Fest (HAFF). His recent solo shows include Wang Haiyang at Capsule Shanghai (Shanghai, China) and Wang Haiyang at White Space Beijing (Beijing, China), both in 2018; By Himself at OCAT in Xi’an, China (2017); New Directions: Wang Haiyang at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing, China (2016); Dynamic Field: Wang Haiyang at Minsheng Art Museum in Shanghai, China (2016).

 Wang Huimeng was born and raised in Inner Mongolia of China. She received a B.E. in Bio-Medical Engineering from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and an M.F.A. in Studio Art from San Francisco Art Institute.Wang has held residencies at Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, ACRE, Millay Colony for the Arts, and Otis College of Art and Design, among others. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and cultural organizations including Embark Gallery, Morlan Gallery, Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, SOMArts Cultural Center, Root Division, and APAture Arts Festival. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

 Zhou Li was born in 1969 in Hunan and lives and works in Shenzhen. Recent solo exhibitions include White Cube in London, The Ring of Life, Hive Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing and Shadow of the Wind, Yuz Museum, Shanghai (both 2017). Recent group exhibitions include The world is yours, as well as ours, White Cube Mason's Yard, London (2016); Too Loud a Solitude, Hive Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (both 2016), From West to East, 56th Venice Biennale (2015) and Catch, OCAT Center for Contemporary Art, Shenzhen (2013).

Zhang Xiaogang is a Chinese painter and preeminent member of the contemporary Chinese avant-garde. His Surrealist-inspired, stylized portraits executed in smoothly rendered oil paint maintain a formal and stiffly posed aesthetic, focusing on the aftereffects of the Cultural Revolution and the meaning of family, history, and memory in China today. Born in 1958 in Kunming, China, Zhang went on study painting at Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in Chongqing. Forced to work construction and other odd jobs instead of teaching painting as he had intended, Zhang fell into a deep depression fueled by alcoholism, eventually leading to his hospitalization in 1984. Upon discovering an album of his family’s old photographs in the late 1980s, Zhang was inspired to create his Bloodlines series, the body of work for which he is now widely celebrated. He has been exhibited worldwide, notably including at Pace Gallery in New York, the 1995 Venice Biennale, and the Daegu Art Museum. He lives and works in Beijing, China.

Yang Shaobin is a contemporary Chinese painter known for his portraits of deformed ghoulish figures that comment on the social and political changes in his country. Born in 1963 in Tangshan, China, he studied at the Hebei Polytechnical University before moving to Yuanmingyuan, a village on the outskirts of Beijing. Yang’s work of the early 1990s focused primarily on groups of men in uniform fighting one another, but by the end of the decade his paintings had taken on looser brushstrokes and more surreal imagery. In his recent series X-Blind Spot (2004), Yang examined the living conditions of coal mining communities in around China through both painting and sculpture. The artist currently lives and works in Beijing, China. Today, his works are held in the collections of the Guangdong Museum in Guangzhou, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Dongyu Museum of Fine Arts in Shenyang, among others.

Wang Jinsong (Chinese, b.1963) is an oil painter, whose work in the Cynical Realist style is deeply-rooted in traditional Chinese brush painting, and a photographer. By painting with a childlike awkwardness intended to reflect the “collective blindness” he saw in society, Wang’s rebellious A jolly Sunday (1987) and Trimming the branches (1988) broke from the traditional Zhepai school, and were later published in Fine Art magazine by Gao Minglu, a seminal figure of the 1985 New Wave movement. Wang’s work is in public collections includes Museum Ludwig, Yuz Collection, Asia Art Museum in Japan, Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, MOMA in New York, SFMOMA, San Francisco, and Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

[1] Pollack, Barbara. “Introduction” In Brand New Art from China, A Generation on The Rise. I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2018. P6