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Geng Jianyi at Power Station of Art

November 10, 2022–February 12, 2023

Power Station of Art presents retrospective exhibition of Geng Jianyi:Who is he? from November 10, 2022 to February 12, 2023.

Power Station of Art will hold the exhibition Who is He?, a retrospective exhibition of the work of Chinese artist Geng Jianyi, one of the most significant painters to emerge in the 1980s as well as a distinguished educator, from November 10, 2022 until February 12, 2023. Karen Smith and Yang Zhenzhong curated the exhibition.

Throughout his career, Geng Jianyi has long been concerned with some of the most fundamental questions of art, namely, how to see, how to read, how to standardize, how to visualize—this led him to initiate a series of projects and practices that appropriates and reinvented the most common behaviors and objects in everyday life.

The exhibition’s title, Who is He?, is a reference to an important conceptual work created by Geng Jianyi in 1994. When a guest called at Geng Jianyi’s house while he was away, he automatically questioned, “Who is he?” To find out who the mystery “he” was, Geng Jianyi asked his neighbors what they had seen of the stranger. The finished artwork is made up of their drawings and textual descriptions. The curators of this exhibition and its title use the question “who is he?” to describe “who is Geng Jianyi,” as reflected in the distinctive character of Geng Jianyi’s artistic work.

Who is He? spans Geng Jianyi’s career from the mid-1980s to 2016. It covers several of the landmark works that have earned him fame. Some of Geng Jianyi’s lesser-known pieces are also included in the exhibition. These begin from early paintings from the 1980s, moving to conceptual works like You Decide (100 Incense Coils: A Discussion With Song Haidong), 1991; No Matter From Which Side it’s Still Possible to See, 1995; The Needs of Negative Reality (What is Thrown Away) (OMI/New York) 1995; On the Floor, 1997. On public display for the first time are two works that bracket Geng Jianyi’s career. Tap Water Factory (1987/2022), shown as a special installation in PSA’s main hall, is one example. The other is a sequence of experimental forms constructed with paper pulp in Japan in 2016, one of his final work before passing away.

Tap Water Factory, a large-scale, maze-like interactive installation into which viewers enter and become instant participants in the act of seeing and being seen, was Geng Jianyi’s first of several works created to eliminate the “gap” he perceived between audiences and artworks. “Everyone has a dual role as both audience and an intrinsic element of the work,” Geng Jianyi remarked of his Tap Water Factory concept. The visitors’ experience indicates that at least half of the “distance” has already been erased.” Although Tap Water Factory was not physically shown during his lifetime, the concept is central to Geng Jianyi’s aesthetic thought.

Aside from his artistic practice, Geng Jianyi committed a significant amount of time and effort to his teaching function, as well as organizing a number of exhibitions. His technique was as distinct as his creative style, stemming from the belief that art can be learnt but not taught. This helped him educate his students in understanding how their own views may be expressed via art.

Throughout his career, Geng Jianyi collaborated and participated with a diverse group of people, including artists, friends, students, neighbors, and regular people. Who exactly is He? This phenomenon is commemorated with a specific memorial project. In honor of the artist’s predilection for employing documents and forms in his artworks, the curators devised a “Form” initiative for anyone who collaborated with Geng Jianyi. Their responses provide deep, personal descriptions of who he is.

Curators: Karen Smith and Yang Zhenzhong

Power Station of Art
678 Miaojiang Road
200011 Shanghai

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