August 31, 2012

Jin Shan at David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University

David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University
Jin Shan, My dad is Li Gang! [detail], 2012, mixed media, variable dimensions. Photo by Zhong Han.

A leading voice in an emerging generation of socially engaged contemporary artists in China, Jin Shan is an agent provocateur. Preferring wit and satire to aggression and conflict, he uses humor and play to draw audiences into a confrontation with the social, cultural, and political problems of the modern world. In this special project for the David Winton Bell Gallery, Jin Shan responds to power dynamics in contemporary China by invoking a powerful Chinese social meme.

“My dad is Li Gang!” developed as a cultural phenomenon in late 2010 after a hit-and-run incident involving the son of a local police official in Baoding, Hebei Province, China. The driver Li Qiming, who hit two students, killing one, fled the scene shouting, “Go ahead, sue me if you dare. My dad is Li Gang!” Social outrage erupted, provoking a social media phenomenon that made the phrase ubiquitous throughout the country as a short-hand satirical critique of the corrupt financial and political elite of China who believe they can act with impunity.

With My dad is Li Gang!, Jin Shan transforms the Bell Gallery into a big yellow political disco party. At the center, bathed in yellow light, is a mirror-clad replica of China’s Tiangong 1 space station. The space station turns slowly, seemingly powered by a cast replica of a three-wheeled cycle. The space station’s mirrors throw yellow light around the room onto four false walls covered with plaster. The plaster has been beaten and marked using silicone replicas of the hands of laborers who make their livelihood using three-wheeled cycles in Shanghai. Sustaining the critique of power, desire, and ambition, the false walls allow the visitor to “see behind the scene,” revealing the “party” to be a construction and exposing the power dynamics of China to criticism.

My dad is Li Gang! is a critical transition in the work of Jin Shan toward a bolder, more overtly political and socially engaged artistic practice,” curator Ian Alden Russell said. “Still maintaining his characteristic use of humor and wit, Jin Shan formalizes his process of collaboration with social classes in China who are often marginalized by the burgeoning Chinese contemporary art market. Engaging migrant and factory workers in the design and development of components of the installation, he fulfills his commitment to a belief that the process of making art must do more than produce objects for consumption by the social and economic elite.”

An opening reception will be held on Friday, September 7, 2012, in List Art Center, beginning at 5:30pm with a conversation between the artist and the curator. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public.

About Jin Shan 靳山
A graduate of East China Normal University, Jin Shan was born in Jiangsu and lives and works in Shanghai. He is represented by Pekin Fine Arts, Beijing; Aike Dell’Arco, Shanghai; and Masters & Pelavin, New York.

This will be Jin Shan’s second solo exhibition in the United States. It occurs in conjunction with his first New York gallery solo show at Masters & Pelavin.

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