Shi Yong divides his current exhibition at ShanghART Gallery’s West Bund space into two chapters: On the ground floor, “Turning Inward, Until Disappearing” is a traditional gallery show featuring works since 2020, while on the upper floor, “One Man’s Art History” surveys his practice since 1993 with a text-heavy archival presentation that demands serious time, patience, and, perhaps, a tiny bit of nerdiness.
“Turning Inward, Until Disappearing” is suffused with the aesthetics of Minimalism and Conceptualism, with many of the artworks predicated on text. For the series “Oblivion Lasts Longer than Memory”, 2020–21, the artist traced the contents of book pages onto sheets of sketch paper, erasing them when they were fully covered. The Waste Land, 2021, removed wall text of T. S. Eliot’s 1922 poem, reducing the lines to gummy black residue. While rendered illegible, the meaning of the words in both works is not entirely irrelevant, as the artist explicitly credits the sources in his titles. Shi seems to treat the texts as a kind of meditation, nourishing to the mind; to the average viewer, however, they may as well be chewing gum.
The upstairs gallery seeks to contextualize Shi’s recent foray into text-related art within nearly three decades of his multidimensional practice. Both presentations are self-sufficient, but together, they plot the artist’s trajectory as a journey without a preset destination. Sometimes he moves forward, sometimes he stops in his tracks. Like a snake winding in the dust, the path is difficult to predict, but, over time, it takes on set contours. If “One Man’s Art History” can be seen as a continuously growing fabric, “Turning Inward, Until Disappearing” is a new thread to weave into it.
Related Artists: SHI YONG 施勇