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25 Aug 2008

A Long March Project: 'X-Blind Spot' — Yang Shaobin Solo Exhibition

YANG Shaobin
'X-Blind Spot' 2008
Oil on canvas
Courtesy the artist and Long March Space, Beijing

'X-Blind Spot' — Yang Shaobin Solo Exhibition


September 4 - October 18, 2008
Tues - Sun, 11am - 7pm

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 4 at 4pm

+86 (0)10 6438 7107
+86 (0)10 6432 3834

Long March Space (Gallery B & C)
798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu
Chaoyang District, Beijing

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Artist: Yang Shaobin

Curator: Lu Jie

Project Manager: Xiao Xiong

Since 2004, Yang Shaobin and the Long March team have been on the road, working deep in the coalmining communities of rural China. This exhibition 'X-Blind Spot' is the final showcase of this four year, two-stage collaboration following '800 Meters Under' which was presented at Long March Space in September 2006.

In 'X-Blind Spot' Yang Shaobin delves into the psychology of those who endure, enact, and persist with the toil of coal mining life. This exhibition presents a complete body of new work which reflects an introspective, and at times disturbing cruelty and exploitation observed in the social transformation of farmer to laborer – the reality of many coal miners today in China. While Yang Shaobin acknowledges the harsh conditions of this toxic life, his works also illustrate certain resilience, an unfathomable human desire to persist, and it is this highly subjective realm that Yang Shaobin's works evince.

'800 Meters Under' took Yang Shaobin and the Long March team to the coalmines of Tang Shan in Hebei Province, experiencing the hardships of coalmining life first hand. Following the presentation of new works resulting from this first investigation, the team returned to the road in May 2007. Examining, documenting, sharing meals and drink, visiting chronically ill patients in local hospitals, witnessing the oppressive conditions of the enduring and persisting communities of Chang Zhi, Shuo Zhou and Da Tong in Shanxi Province, extending further to the areas of Hebei, Northeasten China and even the plains of Mongolia.

Whereas '800 Meters Under' took the idea of darkness as its frame, exploring the physicality of being underground, 'X-Blind Spot' takes the idea of contrast, artistically visualizing the differences between living in light and shadow, which he here manipulates through ideas of positive and negative, white in black, black in white.

The 'X' in the title of this exhibition refers to the process of x-ray, a medical process used to diagnose illness via electromagnetic radiation. This noninvasive treatment gives image to our internal organs, the surfaces of these structures given color from the ability to absorb certain levels of radiation. 'X' also expresses a warning, a caution, or alternatively a potential rejection or suspicion. The project casts an eye back towards history, linking relevant scenes of the past with the conundrum of what is happening today. At the same time, 'Blind Spot' is a warning, a questioning, an investigation, a testimony. Referencing the large-scale mining equipment used in these geographical areas called 'KOMACI 170'. At either end of the machine, there is a blind spot – 50 meters in diameter at the front, and 60 meters in diameter at the back. Within the boundaries of this 'blind spot' is plausible potential ruin.

'X-Blind Spot' focuses on the experience of open pit coalmines, examining social geographies and corresponding economies that are related to the production of coal in China. This collaborative project, culminating in the presentation of a major body of new work that extends Yang Shaobin's practice in significant technical and conceptual directions, responds to the high-tech, super-scale environment of these seemingly hyper-realistic open-pit mines, calling into question the meaning of urbanization and education in the face of a destroyed local ecology and limited civil services. In 'X-Blind Spot', Yang Shaobin's signature figures remain hidden or shaded, their bodies' presence in each image signified by a transparency, their forms taking on the marked contrast of an x-ray. This method of illuminating the body to reveal the fragile nature of its functions is a deliberate metaphorical reference to the contemporary reality of China's rural social body. Born to a coal-mining family, Yang Shaobin is highly concerned with the state of the coal-mining industry in China. His work, in collaboration with the Long March Project, probes the underground world of exploitation, labor conditions and the physical repercussions suffered by these coalmining communities.

In 'X-Blind Spot' these ideas are powerfully provoked through painting, video, installation, sculpture and photography. Yang Shaobin will also participate in 'Translocalmotion: 7th Shanghai Biennale', opening September 8, 2008, with a major video installation from this project.

Yang Shaobin (b. 1963, Tangshan, Hebei Province) rose to initial prominence in the late 1990s with a series of oil paintings that powerfully spoke an emotional honesty in the portrayal of a troubled soul through a distorted body. Fundamental to Yang Shaobin's practice has been his awareness of a social consciousness. Early explorations engage with the corporeal experience of the individual in society and collective memory. Later work often enters into the political realm, where familiar faces of Western, Soviet and Middle Eastern leaders haunt the surface of canvases, and scenes from media reports are interspersed with Yang's violent abstractions. Yang Shaobin has exhibited extensively throughout the world, including Tate Liverpool, UK; Kunsthalle Hamburg, Germany; Essl Museum – Kunst der Gegenwart, Klosterneuburg, Austria; Museum of Fine Arts Bern, Switzerland and the National Gallery, Jakarta, Indonesia. His work was included in the landmark exhibition of the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999 and has also been included in several influential survey exhibitions of Chinese contemporary art, such as 'The Real Thing: Contemporary Art from China' and 'Mahjong – Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection'.

LONG MARCH PROJECT (initiated in 1999, and begun in 2002) is a complex, multi-platform, international arts organization and ongoing independent art project with headquarters in Beijing's 798 Art District. Long March Project can be simultaneously considered a curatorial lab; a publishing house; an artistic collection; a meeting place; a gallery space; a consultancy; a commissioning and production atelier, artistic facilitator, and author. From a critical distance, all of these avenues of production aim to provocatively construct, and in turn renew, presumed action and thinking concerning 'contemporary art'.