“Stand up, fall down / right down to the bottom for the world to see / oh what a profitable commerce it makes / right down to a glass from a lip.” This tongue-in-cheek monologue of a doll, carried out by Yong Xiang Li within the video Rise (all works exhibited made in 2023), units the tone of the artist’s first solo present at Deborah Schamoni. Because the starlet finishes making use of their make-up and launches right into a solo, we’re out of the blue reminded that the artwork world will not be exempt from the hard-boiled guidelines of showbiz, and that the artist is, in some methods, not not like a drag persona, a made-up doll.
This affirmation of efficiency as an inevitable part of artist-hood might invite sure fantasies and cynicism; not within the case of Li, who appears dedicated to creating his marks whereas enjoying by the foundations. All through the exhibition Li continually reminds us of the artist’s reflexivity by means of a sequence of gestures. A skinny lad lies on a carpet together with his eyes closed, however his obvious fatigue is belied by the strain of his hand, which holds a cat teaser (Meticulous Insolvency & a Siesta); a parade of donor figures make a sequence of hand alerts as if extending provides, the meticulous alignment between the fingers and the encompassing frames drawing our consideration away from the specific that means of the indicators to mirror on the intractability of framing—and its inevitable entanglement with patronage (Parallel Assist & Possess it in a Sleeve). Blended into this mental sport of hide-and-seek are drops of banality, just like the loathsome however inevitable chore of tax submitting, or the anticlimax of the artist’s melancholic crooning. Between relaxation and alert, topic and object, bigger than life and mundane as life, Li secularizes the vanguardist fantasy of the artist-as-pop-idol and pledges allegiance to his craft at hand: the comb, the make-up, the body. Taking part in methods and telling the actual story should not have to be mutually unique.
The sequence of sculptural work in the principle gallery takes on one other set of false opposites: whereas going through the doorway with a unanimous type of generic abstraction, their picture of pure uniformity is betrayed by the decorative excesses on full show within the again. In Maritime Sundown and a Style Thought, the grainy texture of the again has even seeped by means of to the entrance of the woven bamboo veneer, like a mould contaminating its host. In the meantime, in Intestinal Demonstration & Indulgence, the juxtaposition of a pristine, metaphysical panorama with a debased scene of carnal abandon dramatises the historic motion of a style throughout excessive and low traces. Li rejects binarism as a framework of critique, wanting as an alternative to modernism’s porosity, to its already-existing, ‘messy’ undercurrents. Fairly than resisting, disrupting and exploding the canon, he prefers to train a parasitical technique of an infection. Take as an example the aforementioned Maritime Sundown and a Style Thought: its internal floor options black calligraphic strokes, floating in a sea of deep blue, that upon nearer examination reveal themselves to be inhabited islets brimming with life. By transferring and decelerating gestural abstraction (the ‘strokes of genius’) in a course of borrowed from ornamental design, Li claims craft as a conceptual device—to not reconstruct an ethnographic identification, however to problem, contaminate and rewrite hegemonic strategies and their underlying ideologies.
For all of the methods up his sleeves, Yong Xiang Li is in the end an artist of nice seriousness and sincerity. It’s all actual—so long as he doesn’t cease performing.
at Deborah Schamoni, Munich
till October 28, 2023