Xiang Yang's installation at Snyderman-Works Galleries, May 2 through June 16, 2008, is the first comprehensive gallery exhibition here of this currently New York based artist. While maintaining his affiliation with Philadelphia's cutting edge artists' cooperative, Vox Populi, he is now branching out into larger spaces capable of presenting a more significant body of his work. Yang's exhibit of 14 works occupies 1500 square feet of the gallery's main exhibition space.
Yang, who completed his graduate studies at the Central Academy of Art in Beijing in 1994, engaged in a fascinating range of projects in China before imigrating to the United States in 1998.
They included a mural commission for the Beijing International Airport, and a public sculpture for the city of Beijing in 1992 and 1995 respectively.
He also served as Art Director and Editor of a book on the Potala (Buddhala) Palace in Lhasa, Tibet as well as the designer and illustrator of a Chinese Art Encyclopedia in 1994.
In May and June of 2001, he subversively installed small works in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and at P.S. 1 in Long Island City, in a project he called "Museum Invasions."
Yang first came to the attention of Snyderman-Works Galleries principal Rick Snyderman via Snyderman's long-time friend Michelle Liao, the distinguished Philadelphia dealer in Chinese antiquities and contemporary Asian art. Snyderman first presented his work in New York at the Sculpture, Objects and Functional Art Expo in June 2007. As a result of that exposure, David McFadden, Chief Curator of New York's Museum of Art and Design, invited him to submit a work for his acclaimed exhibition, "Pricked: Radical Embroidery", and talked about his work in that exhibit on a recent program for New York's Public Television station Channel 13.
Love Be Serious, one of the pieces in Snyderman-Worksâ€™ current exhibit, was also presented at Art Basel Miami 2007 by New Yorkâ€™s Dean Project.
Xiang embroiders on silk and plastic but in ways that are startlingly original. The series of works on silk involve embroidering on screened panels installed at the front and rear of a stainless steel rectangular frame he has constructed. The panels are then connected via a series of hundreds of multi-colored threads, creating an illusion of motion in space and time between the screened images. Viewed from the side, these threads also form a series of color-saturated optics. The effect of the sculptures is to convey a sense of both narrative and the abstract visual movement. There are four such works in the exhibition.
In the plastic works, Yang has taken clear, mass-produced salad take-out containers and painstakingly embroidered across and through them with lush images and text, creating in intimate scale the effects achieved in the larger steel framed works.
There are also two large-format digital photographs, one of a nude Yang seated in a tantric pose, covered with ghostly white powder, below which is a large plastic bag containing all the possessions he has shed. The other is a silhouette of the Buddha, below which is a similar plastic bag in which Yang has deposited himself in a pre-natal curl, as though having been regenerated. Each of the photographs is an edition of five.
In a completely different direction is one of a series of three large collage drawings, each measuring 6 feet high by 30 inches wide. The series is titled After Da Vinci. The one shown is titled Madonna and Child. It consists of a gestural drawing executed with Chinese calligraphy ink on vellum, which is loosely stitched on top of a highway road map, the effect of which creates a mysterious blurring of the map details in some places, while bringing them in sharp detail in the stitched areas. The maps are of the area between New York and Philadelphia, reflecting his blurred life between these two cities, one in which his wife and child live, the other in which he lives.
The largest work in the exhibition, titled Reincarnation, is an independent structure six feet by six feet by 10 feet high, one side of which has a low opening permitting one to stand inside. The outside of this chamber is uniformly lined with several hundred bas-reliefs of the Buddha, each exquisitely painted. Below each bas-relief is a small plastic bag containing the painted chips salvaged from the carved images. Inside the chamber, visitors are encouraged to snip a lock of their hair and pin it up in similar small plastic bags as a way of making a human and participatory connection with his work.