Liao Yibai. Courtesy of Mike Weiss Gallery.
Mike Weiss Gallery presents Imaginary Enemy, an exhibition of new work by Chinese artist Liao Yibai. The exhibition will run from May 8 to August 15, 2009. Unlike other Chinese contemporary artists, Yibai’s sculpture uniquely explores how Chinese imagined the myth and threat of America during and immediately following the Cultural Revolution.
Yibai was born and grew up at the site of a bomb and chemical weapons factory, where his father designed cruise missiles to be used against the United States. The artist therefore grew up in an environment of weapons, secrecy, and danger. The key to understanding the Imaginary Enemy series is through stories arising from the artist’s personal memories and dreams.
At first viewing, the stainless steel sculptures prompt laughter. They look disconcertingly strange and unlike most other contemporary art. Yet each one carries complex layers of meaning and significance. Top Secret Hamburger, for example, recalls the artist’s first taste of an American hamburger (considered an icon of American capitalism) and finding it rancid. Cash Fighting represents the continuing economic battles between the two countries, while PLA Whiskey recalls the story of a former Chinese soldier’s dream of forbidden American alcohol. Several of Yibai’s works combine motifs from ancient Chinese art, with memories and dreams from the artist’s childhood such as the Propaganda Machine. In the work, a traditional turtle carries a set of megaphones resembling the ones that blasted Communist slogans from a truck that drove through his town three times a day.
Through his sculptures, Yibai reminds us that ‘enemy’ is a relative concept. Instead of threatening war and competition, the works in Imaginary Enemy encourage us to see these as humorous misunderstandings that must be corrected.
This is the first exhibition of Yibai’s work in New York. The artist attended the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, and was an art lecturer at Chongqing University. Yibai’s work has been exhibited throughout China including Beijing; Hong Kong; Guangdong; Shenzhen as well as in Cannes, France and Miami, Florida. He currently lives and works in Beijing and Chongqing.
A fully illustrated catalogue will be available with an essay by Barbara J. Bloemink, Ph.D.