Pace is pleased to present Louise Nevelson & Yin Xiuzhen, a two-person exhibition that places one of the premier sculptors of the twentieth century in dialogue with a renowned Chinese contemporary artist.
This exhibition will mark the first time the work of these artists, each from different eras and cultural backgrounds, has been presented in juxtaposition with one another. The unique associations and contrasts between the two artists’ works—Nevelson’s large-scale wood ’walls,’ with their heavy dark tones, and Yin’s colorful sculptures made of bright materials—are explored with new conceptual resonance.
A leading Abstract Expressionist who pioneered site-specific and installation art, Nevelson is renowned for her majestic monochromatic works, which are comprised of wooden materials found in the area surrounding her studio. She transformed these castaways by unifying and coating them in a monochromatic paint surface. Some of her most iconic sculptures painted in black will be on view in this exhibition and attest to her positive position on the color black. As Nevelson has stated, ‘it’s only an assumption of the western world that it means death, for me it may mean finished, completeness, maybe eternity.’
Nevelson’s striking monumental installation Untitled (1971), will be on view among the black wall reliefs and standing wall sculptures. Encompassing 83 distinct elements, the work’s intricacy lies in both the method of its construction—it is made of shallow open boxes stacked into a leaning tower with serrated edges—and the salvaged wood bits and pieces with which Nevelson filled many of her works. This high wall has an absorbing visual complexity marked by fluctuating depths, straight lines and curves, overlaps, and vacancies, and has been likened to the faceting of Cubism. By painting every object and box the same dully glowing black, the artist unifies them visually while also obscuring their original identities. The social archaeology suggested by the objects' individual histories and functions, then, is muted but not erased. According to the Walker Art Center, a major art institution that holds Nevelson’s sculptures in their permanent collection, ‘it is as if we were looking at the wall of a library, in which all of the books had been translated into another language.’
This analogy of ‘books translated into another language’ can also be found in Yin Xiuzhen’s Bookshelf series (2009–13). ‘The Chinese scholar Su Shi used to say that even Confucius started learning by reading books,’ Yin has said regarding this work. ‘Everyone’s personal experience is like a thick set of volumes. Continuing my interest in clothes as a “second skin”, I’ve collected bookshelves from different places and have made new “clothes” for the books to keep them warm. These are made from old clothes, which are actually miniature versions of people’s experiences, retaining the temperature and spirit of the bodies they used to cover.’ By transforming the legacy and triviality of daily life, Yin’s works reflect sociopolitical, economical, and historical changes through the lens of the subtle and real circumstances of individuals. This deep concern for life itself is naturally and intuitively conveyed to audiences with the aid of the artist’s skill for manipulating everyday materials, such as worn clothes.
The exhibition will also feature Yin’s Wall Instrument series (2016–present). In addition to the characteristic materials commonly seen in her works—particularly the old clothing thought of as humanity’s ‘second skin’—these works extend her creative process to the use of ceramics. While ceramics are also quite commonplace, their exquisite nature gives form to a subtle sense of distance. Old clothing, soft and warm, is inextricably tied to memory and the experiences of human senses and, through Yin’s process, are embedded into the porcelain works, solidifying and preserving them in time. Ceramics themselves are transformed from common earth into exquisite forms once fired in a kiln; this transformation doubtlessly carries with it even greater symbolic significance. As a process, and the changes it signifies, the porcelain works indicate that the artist’s ‘bodily’ understanding of creative materials is probing a spiritual world focused on form. Thus, the ceramics that appear in the form of ‘instruments’ in this work may be viewed as ‘spiritual instruments,’ which are vessels that carry complex and vivid lives, guiding viewers to a higher plane of understanding.