Xiaoze Xie: New Paintings and Photographs atTalley Dunn Gallery

Chinese Library No. 69, 2019, Oil on linen, 48h x 74w in, image courtesy of the artist and Talley Dunn Gallery
Chinese Library No. 69, 2019, Oil on linen, 48h x 74w in, image courtesy of the artist and Talley Dunn Gallery

Talley Dunn Gallery is honored to announce Xiaoze Xie: New Paintings and Photographs. The exhibition will run from Friday, October 25 – December 14, with an opening reception for the artist on October 25 from 6 – 8 pm. Xie will give brief remarks at 6:30 pm.

Xiaoze Xie: New Paintings and Photographs consists of seven paintings and eight photographs that continue the artist’s formal investigation of historic books, a prominent interest in Xie’s work that has persisted over twenty years. Xie’s artworks preserve material remnants of our histories, reminding us of what has transgressed and immortalizing manuscripts and their contents to stress their continued relevance. Amidst our heated political climate and the near-relentless stream of information we receive through screens, Xie’s captivating paintings and photographs give us pause to stand still and reflect.

Two different iterations of Xie’s interest in texts of bygone times are represented in this exhibition. The paintings in the exhibition are a continuation of Xie’s Library Series (1993-ongoing) and Chinese Library Series (1995-ongoing) through which the artist first explored his interest in texts of the past as material embodiments of abstract concepts such as memory and time. Xie paints from photographs he takes of rare books and manuscripts found in libraries and archives from around the world. Greatly magnifying the scale of his source images in oil on canvas, Xie meticulously depicts the fraying edges and worn sheets of paper of these safely kept texts with so much richness that they appear just within reach. However, the luminous books ultimately remain closed shut with only their spines and sides visible, precluding further inspection. In this way, the artist’s paintings emphasize both exteriority and interiority—unearthing the delicate details of an ancient book’s spine as well as its imagined contents. Xie’s paintings continually test the relationships between material, metaphor, and representation.

Born out of his exploration of rare books, Xie has more recently begun to conduct extensive research on censorship in China. The eight photographs in the exhibition are a part of the series Forbidden Memories: Tracing Banned Books in China (2012 – ongoing). In this series, the artist photographs historic manuscripts once banned in the Ming and Qing dynasties for political, religious, and moral reasons. While the paintings in Xie’s Library Series and Chinese Library Series all feature aged books that are closed, shelved, and stacked on top of each other, Forbidden Memories opens up individual texts to reveal the contents of their illustrious pages.

In these works, Xie selects specific images and passages from classic works of literature or manuscripts on topics such as politics and philosophy to display. He photographs the opened yellowed texts individually against a black background, placing the same silver ruler underneath each one to measure its contents. Xie speaks of this intervention as a form of passing judgment just as state officials once did when they deemed documents harmful or disruptive. Furthermore, in stripping the volumes down and exposing them to an even and standardized light, Xie uniformly chronicles them like a government recording the visages of its criminals. In doing this, Xie gestures towards the subversive potential of the written word and illustrates changes in historical patterns of control and tolerance. For instance, one title represented in the exhibition, The Peony Pavilion, was repeatedly banned for challenging ethical code under feudal rule but is now considered one of China’s greatest literary classics. Xie’s works in both photography and painting intimately recognize books as powerful objects to reflect on concerns of knowledge, the notion of the archive, and political authority across time and space.

Xiaoze Xie received his Master of Fine Art degrees from the Central Academy of Arts and Design in Beijing and from the University of North Texas. Xie is now the Paul L. & Phyllis Wattis Professor of Art at Stanford University. Xie has exhibited widely in the United States and internationally, with one-person exhibitions at the Asia Society, New York; Denver Art Museum; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art; Knoxville Museum of Art; Modern Chinese Art Foundation, Ghent, Belgium; and the China Art Archives and Warehouse, Beijing. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions including Shu: Reinventing Books in Contemporary Chinese Art at the China Institute Gallery in New York and Seattle Asian Art Museum, and the traveling exhibition Regeneration: Contemporary Chinese Art from China and the US. Xie’s work has been acquired by many major institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, San Jose Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of California, Boise Art Museum, Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College and the Arizona State University Art Museum. Among other honors, Xie has received a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant (2013) and a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2003). Xie splits time between Beijing, China and Palo Alto, California.

Talley Dunn Gallery is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and by appointment. Xiaoze Xie: New Paintings and Photographs will be on view concurrently with Dark Waves Rising, an exhibition of works by Vernon Fisher. For additional images and more information about the exhibition, please contact Meredith Leyendecker at the gallery (meredith@talleydunn.com or 214-521-9898) for visuals and a checklist.


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