Li Songsong is a giant in the field of contemporary Chinese art. His vivid, high relief paintings composed of imposing brushstrokes, found photographs, and grids of color often deals with political or historical imagery. Assuming any image is imbued with its own ideology and associations, Li intentionally destroys the image he chooses and rebuilds it when constructing his painting. Through painting, drawing, sculpture, and installation, the artist strips the source material from its original context and intention. His objectivity evokes a rethinking of historical memory and deliberately opens a space between the original and the artwork, leading the viewer to imagine other possibilities. Join Li Songsong and Michelle Yun, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Asia Society Museum, to delve into the artist’s work and insights on art in China today.
© Li Songsong, courtesy Pace Gallery
Artist Li Songsong is renowned for his thickly layered paintings that animate the fragmentary nature of images and memory, paying particular attention to the people, events, and themes of modern and contemporary Chinese history. Li graduated from the Subsidiary School of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1992 and received a B.F.A in oil painting from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1996. By the early 2000s, Li began to show his prominent style of heavily painted surfaces drawn from found imagery and mass media. These early works, such as Policemen (2001) and Big River (2001), are characterized by a distinctly monochromatic palette that express the haziness of memory and the impact of both historic and quotidian imagery. Li’s first solo exhibition Public Auction – Work Horse at Tsinghua University of Fine Arts, Beijing (2001), would highlight this distinct style. In 2002, Li was one of the first to inhabit a studio in the famous 798 Art District in Beijing, during which time he began to include multiple color schemes into his work and increasingly add more extraordinarily thick and layered pigments.
Michelle Yun is Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Asia Society Museum. Prior to her appointment to Asia Society, Yun was the curator of the Hunter College Art Galleries. She has previously served as the project director of Cai Guo-Qiang’s studio and as a curatorial assistant in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, in addition to organizing numerous independently curated exhibitions. Ms. Yun is also a frequent lecturer on modern and contemporary Chinese art and has taught at SUNY New Paltz, Columbia University, and The Museum of Modern Art. Her writings have been included in many publications, among them Patti Smith: 9.11 Babelogue, published in conjunction with her exhibition at Hunter College; Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want To Believe, published by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; entries in the Benezit Dictionary of Asian Artists and The Grove Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press; Greater New York, the 2003 exhibition organized by PS1 and The Museum of Modern Art; and Artforum International.