Liu Xiaodong (b. 1963, Jincheng, Liaoning province) is the contemporary heir to modern China’s realist painting tradition. Emerging in the 1990s, he began to depict what one critic called “minute but fragmentary observations of life” with snapshot clarity, turning the previously heroic tools of oil painting onto characters and subjectivities at all levels of a rapidly urbanizing and developing society. This exploration unfolded in parallel to a new documentary aesthetic in the works of “Sixth Generation” filmmakers such as Wang Xiaoshuai and Zhang Yuan, with whom he has frequently collaborated. Since the early 2000s, Liu has often worked through plein air sessions staged in globally significant, even fraught, locations, from the Three Gorges Dam (2003) to the U.S.-Mexico border (2020). For his 2010 exhibition “Hometown Boy” at UCCA Beijing, the artist trained his lens on his childhood friends from the paper mill town of Jincheng, in an extended meditation on personal transformation and social mobility.
For the first solo exhibition to be mounted at UCCA Edge, Liu turns to the people who have been closest to him, both personally and artistically: his immediate family and his dearest interlocutors. This new cycle, “Your Friends,” is exhibited in the 3/F and 4/F galleries, and complimented by preparatory materials including sketches and journals, as well as a documentary film by director Yang Bo. On 2/F, a selection of earlier works elaborates the connections between affect, circumstance, and portraiture that run throughout his work, as well as works created from the artist’s travel around the world in recent years. Bringing together new works created in the months following Liu’s return from an extended stay in New York during the early stages of the pandemic with previous works chosen for their resonance within this context, this presentation shows an artist bringing the same sensitivity and acuity to bear on his own surroundings that he has previously directed towards others. In doing so, he invites us to think about the ties that bind us to our moment and to each other.
“Liu Xiaodong: Your Friends” is sponsored by Shanghai Tang. UCCA thanks Baoyun Group for their generous support. Dulux contributed exclusive wall solutions support. Gratitude to the members of UCCA Foundation Council, International Circle, and Young Associates, as well as Lead Partner Aranya, Presenting Partner Bloomberg, and Supporting Partners Active House, Barco, BenQ, Clivet, Dulux, and Genelec for their generous support.
About the Artist
Liu Xiaodong (b. 1963, Jincheng, Liaoning province, China) lives and works in Beijing. He studied oil painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, which he graduated from in 1988, and where he now teaches as a tenured professor. His work has been shown in major solo exhibitions at venues around the world including Dallas Contemporary (2020); Louisiana Museum of Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (2019); Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and NRW Forum, Germany (2018); Palazzo Strozzi-Strozzina, Florence (2016); Today Art Museum, Beijing (2013); Kunsthaus Graz, Austria (2012); and UCCA Beijing (2010). He has participated in group exhibitions at institutions including Somerset House, London (2020); the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2017); Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2016); Long Museum, Shanghai (2014); Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai (2012); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2008); and Centre Pompidou, Paris (2003). His work has also been included in the Gwangju Biennale (2014); Venice Biennale (1997, 2013); Havana Biennial (2009); Biennale of Sydney (2006); and Shanghai Biennale (2000).
Image: Liu Xiaodong working on a painting of Ah Cheng, October 7, 2020. Courtesy Shi Qian.
2F, No.88 Xizang Bei Lu
Jing’an District, Shanghai, China