Liu Jianhua (b.1962, Ji’an, China) began his career in 1977 by working at the Jingdezhen Pottery and Porcelain Sculpture Factory. In 1985, he was admitted to the Fine Arts Department of the Jingdezhen Pottery & Porcelain College, majoring in Sculpture. After graduating in 1989, Liu went on to teach at the College of Fine Arts at the Yunnan Institute of the Arts. Since 2004, Liu has been a professor in the Sculpture Department of the Fine Arts School of Shanghai University. Creating sculpture and installations in porcelain, found objects, and other materials, Liu responds to Chinese culture and material history within the context of globalization. Liu, together with artists Hong Hao, Xiao Yu, Song Dong, and curator Leng Lin, established the Polit-Sheer-Form Office group in 2005.
His work is included in the permanent collections of institutions including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; Guangdong Museum of Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Kawara Museum, Shiga; Shenzhen Art Museum; Today Art Museum, Beijing; USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and the Yuz Museum, Shanghai. His installation Square (2014) was included in the 2017 Venice Biennale.
Palo Alto—Pace Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of sculptures by Liu Jianhua. The exhibition will focus on Liu’s mastery of porcelain, a medium he has been ceaselessly pushing the boundaries of since 1977, when he began working as an apprentice in the Jingdezhen Pottery and Porcelain Sculpture Factory, the oldest established center of ceramic production in China. Significant recent series in the artist’s oeuvre will be on display, including Trace (2011); Square (2014), which was featured in the 2017 Venice Biennale Viva Arte Viva; and Blank Paper (2009-16). The artist’s first solo exhibition with Pace Gallery in the U.S., Liu Jianhua will be on view from June 21 to August 4, 2019 at Pace Gallery at 229 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto. An opening reception for the artist will be held on Thursday, June 20 from 4–7 pm.
The series of works included in this exhibition underscore the artist’s increasingly philosophical approach toward form and abstraction that has characterized his practice over the last decade. Full distillations of form resulted in the Blank Paper series, thin sheets of white porcelain hung on the wall. Uncannily realistic in their mimicry of pristine sheets of paper, the works demand more than a perfunctory glance to see they are made of porcelain. However, in the process of discovering the sculptures’ true medium, assessments and assumptions are reevaluated and the viewer is able to reconsider the form of objects free from preconceptions of their function. Though the works allow for revelations, they offer the viewer no grand narratives, rather inviting people to make their own impressions.
Other highlights of the exhibition include Trace, a series of wall-bound black porcelain ink drops, which are inspired by wo lou hen, a calligraphy stroke that can be translated to “traces from a leaking roof.” The sculptures play off of both wo lou hen’s figurative inspiration and calligraphic origins by returning the brushstrokes back to their architectural context, while transforming the walls of the gallery into immense sheets of paper at the artist’s disposal. This transformation is made complete by the lustrous black porcelain Liu expertly employs—in his hands the material appears viscous and weighty, threatening to drip down the walls. Trace ultimately led to the final series on view, Square, an installation comprised of gold-glazed porcelain pools resting on top of steel sheets, which was most recently shown in Viva Arte Viva at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017). Liu further flexes his unsurpassed dexterity with porcelain by seemingly turning fragile material into delicate liquid pools of precious metal. Though the works are undeniably sumptuous, they present a clean cogent aesthetic with a strong eye for form and material that has defined Liu Jianhua’s recent work.