Liu Wei: Density @ White Cube Mason’s Yard

White Cube gallery presents ‘Density’, the solo exhibition of Beijing-based artist Liu Wei. The show encompasses brand new works spanning both levels of the Mason’s Yard site.

Seven works of the Density series occupy the ground floor space, while Density 1 is the main sculpture on the basement surrounded by five wall works from the Jungle series. Liu Wei’s employed materials mediate his urban upbringing and the rapid growth of the surrounding cityscape in the 1970s and succeeding decades. Billboard steel structures, ventilation pipes and wood are all incorporated into his wall pieces; the use of books for the construction of his installation Density 1, whose parts include monumental geometric shapes (pyramid, sphere, cube, cylinder and quarter-sphere) is reminiscent of his older installations of chaotic cities made of text books.

Liu Wei belongs to a generation that witnessed a series of dramatic changes in China, especially in major urban centres such as Beijing. Following the socio-political events that emerged from the second half of the 1960s and onwards recasting China’s history for ever, the growth of urban centres generated by the influx of foreign investment, was heavily accelerated. Up until the early 1990s urban topography was reshaped transforming smaller cities into vast industrial labyrinths.

Liu Wei’s oeuvre reflects on these tense development years and surveys with his distinctive visual vocabulary the density of a prodigious expansion. His re-interpretation of disorder impregnates a subliminal quest for rearrangement and reorganisation. The modest colour palette in all sculptural works and canvases advocates the need for minimalism and serenity.

Density 1, the show’s epicentre, is a robust statement of order and balance. The presence of enormous geometric objects made of text books appears as a metaphorical remapping of cityscape. Here, in Liu Wei’s realm, atrocious buildings are substituted by a surreal locus of geometrical forms found in nature, encapsulating concealed knowledge and wisdom.

The given work titles (Density bounded by Jungle) entwined with the physical appearance of the works evoke an oxymoron of antithetical situations. The portrayal of this environ may also be suggestive of an underlying juxtaposition between uncontrollable development and minimalism, a movement that concurrently emerged in the Western world in the early 1970s.

Liu Wei‘s narrative embraces, above everything, a statement on social balancing and cultural restructuring. The segregation of urban detritus and its re-use clearly manifests a conscious redesigning of infrastructure. And although it might seem as an esoteric quest, it projects a prominent inter-personal need for escapism and survival. Kostas Prapoglou