Yu Honglei

Yu Honglei’s video and mixed media works riff on familiar motifs from the Western art historical canon and reimagine them through a playful but subversive culture jamming of their original meaning. Life (2013), for example, depicts a tiled backdrop of various images and stills associated with the work of American Pop artist Andy Warhol. Digital reproductions of his silkscreens featuring public figures like Elizabeth Taylor, Chairman Mao, and Debbie Harry form an amalgamation of modern art iconography, while repeated images of Warhol himself serve as a constant reminder that even after his death, the artist is still decidedly present in our art historical consciousness. A vintage Ken doll stands in the foreground and functions as its own nod to a kind of mass-produced iconography. Clad in a shimmering purple jacket with a Mandarin collar and red and black stripe detail throughout, the Ken doll is fully market as a retrograde artifact and an object quite literally out of time. Throughout, subtitles add another layer of narrativized humor and commentary, and in one still, the Ken doll appears to declare, “This is all Andy’s fault.” The juxtaposition between various signifiers of manufacture– the reproducible art object as epitomized by Warhol’s Factory and the mass-produced consumer toy as represented by the Ken doll – suggests that contemporary art production is not entirely distant from the ethics (or lack thereof) of wide-scale production of consumer goods. While deliberately funny and even playful, Life also raises critical questions how our perception of art is inescapably mediated by the cultures of simulacra and reproducibility inherent to our post-industrial cultural context.

Yu Honglei produces video and mixed media works that frequently take everyday objects as their starting points. Through playful re-arrangement of familiar elements and motifs from the cannon of Western art history, Yu imagines new and productive possibilities for creative materials rendered all-too-familiar in books and media. His work examines the translation of imagery through art over time, but at the same time, he approaches canonical works with irreverence, acting with the impetus to “culture jam” common cultural texts and to allow viewers to see them anew. Tang has exhibited widely, namely at Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai (2007), National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul (2007), Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei (2008), Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, Beijing (2008), Victoria and Albert Museum, London, (2008), Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai (2011) and Aike-Dellarco, Shanghai (2013).