Sojourner Gallery is pleased to announce our last show of the year, COLLISIONS featuring artist Jiannan Wu's 13 pieces of sculptures of his latest series "Country Love."
Illusionistic painting, drawing, and sculpture are technically and conceptually demanding. It is rare to master any of these skills, but it’s almost superhuman to master all of them at once. This is an apt description of bas relief, and Jiannan Wu is an incomparable contemporary master of this challenging medium. His stunning miniature bas relief vignettes employ atmospheric, one-point, and two-point perspectives to reveal the intimate, and to a degree, the banal mini-narratives of rural life in northeast China.
Based on the Chinese television show “Country Love,” each vignette represents a slice of an extended narrative that is linked through the repeating appearances of several main characters. This isn’t to say that they are illustrations of the show, but rather that the show has become a touchstone for the artist and a way to reconnect him to his own rural past. Wu studied at the New York Academy of Art for two years and during that time and in the years since he experienced a longing for home that was almost comically satisfied by watching a kind of Chinese “Green Acres.” And even though the pieces are not presented in aspect ratio, the shadow-box presentation feels like watching television.
Whether sharing a family dinner or riding a bicycle on a country lane, the framed format creates the illusion of being there. This is in part due to the materials Wu uses to create a deeper sense of space. They are all poly-chromed with acrylic paint with the most intense colors used in the immediate foreground. Resin is frequently used to represent luminous water, and the use of the polymer-clay Sculpy, makes the flesh of his characters glow.
In “Country Love: That’s All Your Fault” an older man is berating a younger man in front of his family. The two women and the only-child watching are avoiding eye contact as if feeling his shame for him. There is a beautifully rendered thermos on the floor that perfectly speaks to the working-class environment that the family home represents.
Small-town petty squabbles are the subject of “Country Love: My Daughter Will Not Marry Your Son.” Two men, one oddly standing in water, are arguing with each other as if their stations in life were dramatically different, when in fact they come from the same class. You know, just from looking at them, that their feud goes back decades and could have been the result of a dinged fender or a wayward cow.
One woman appears to be photographing another in the foreground of “Country Love: Village Beauty,” but the real action is the fistfight happening between a group of men in the distant background. The “beauty” of the narrative is just barely a beauty, but the older woman shooting her has the gleeful face of a proud mother. Are the men fighting over the beauty? Are the women used to men fighting over minor grievances? These are the life-blood narratives of all small towns.
In “Trilogy III” we find two wanna-be hipsters dutifully shooting a selfie. They are dressed in out-of-date clothing that would make them a laughing-stock in a big city but makes them look something like a “gangsta” in small-town China. They are beautifully set off against a transparent acid-yellow waterway with their selfie-stick held high like a preposterous trophy. There is something poignant, comical, and ultimately human about the sharp contrast of their wardrobes and their environment.
The final piece to be completed is an all-out melee. Created in a tondo form, Country Love: “Gang War,” we find seven figures engaged in a donnybrook that is barely contained by the circular format. Legs are kicking, arms are flailing and whole bodies are spinning like a pinwheel. This piece appears to be the crescendo of a small-town opera that will leave everyone, (no doubt), exhausted, depleted, and maybe even laughing at each other. They will have to deal with their neighbors tomorrow and maybe that’s the lesson to be learned. When push comes to shove, they are stuck with each other.
Wu looks at these narratives like he’s looking into a mirror. His sculptures never demean his subjects, he just peels back the layers and sees through the walls of their lives. These are people like the people he grew up with, they are warm, funny, petty, and well-known. Nothing too dramatic happens in their lives and yet, their lives are full of drama.
Curated by Peter Drake, the exhibition will be on view from November 24th to December 18th, 2020, with an opening reception on Tuesday, November 24th, 6-8 pm.
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Jiannan Wu, born in 1990 in Dalian, China, is an artist specializing in sculpture. He is the Elected Member of the American National Sculpture Society, a member of the American Medallic Sculpture Association, and the World Economic Forum Global Shaper of Dalian Hub. Jiannan Wu received his BFA Degree in Sculpture from China Academy of Art and his MFA Degree in Sculpture from New York Academy of Art. Through formats of relief and diorama, Jiannan Wu presents the theme of contemporary urban life in a realistic and narrative way. Wu is the recipient of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grant, winner of the 2017 Dexter Jones Award presented by the American National Sculpture Society, winner of the Compleat Sculptor Award, and other awards. He is selected as the 2020 AACYF Top 30 Under 30 presented by the All America Chinese Youth Federation. His work is recognized as The Best Original Sculpture in 2019 by Sculpture Magazine of China. In addition, he was selected for Terra Foundation Residency in Giverny France 2015, ABC Stone Carrara Merit Award Residency in Italy 2016, and West Nottingham Academy Eric Fischl ‘66 Artist-in-Residence 2019. His works have also been displayed in numerous exhibitions at renowned venues such as Accesso Gallery in Italy, Gallery Poulsen, and Art Herning in Denmark, the Sotheby’s, Art Miami, and Southampton Arts Center in America, Chongqing Contemporary Art Museum in China, etc. Jiannan Wu was interviewed by China Central Television international channel (CCTV) and American SinoVision. His works and artistic achievements have been published in The New York Times, The China Press, People’s Daily China, The Paper, Hi-Fructose Magazine, T(here) Magazine, Artrepreneur, etc. Jiannan Wu currently works and lives in New York City.
Peter Drake's art has been featured in 27 solo exhibitions and his work is held in numerous private, corporate, and public collections throughout the US, China, and Europe including the Whitney Museum of Art, Phoenix Museum of Art, MOCA LA, Weatherspoon Art Museum and the L.A. County Museum of Art, among others.
Drake has received a National Endowment for the Arts Award, a New York Foundation Fellowship, and is a two-time recipient of the Two Trees Cultural Space Subsidy Program Grant for 2016-19 and 2019-22. Drake maintains a studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and is represented by Linda Warren Projects, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Drake's "Waiting for Toydot," an MTA Arts & Design permanent public art commission for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Massapequa Station opened to the public in 2015. "Waiting for Toydot" features 18 art glass windows and 5 ceramic/glass mosaics installed throughout the train station and it is viewed by over 6,000 commuters daily.
He is presently the Provost at the New York Academy of Art, a progressive figurative and representational graduate program in lower Manhattan. He was named Dean of Academic Affairs in 2010 and Provost in 2018.
Min Yang, president and chief editor of “Collection” magazine, founder of “ARTY” art media. She focuses on the development and integration of China's traditional cultural and artistic resources in the contemporary era, as well as the international exchange and communication of artistic resources. She founded “Yichao”, “Collection·Trend " magazine and other media, and was awarded "2007 China's top ten periodical innovation leader”. In 2012, she curated the first professional western antique art fair in China. In cooperation with France's Lyon Light Festival, she curated the first city light festival in China (Xi’an) in 2018. She has organized large-scale projects such as Xi 'an International Collection Fair. She was a special guest at many international conferences such as the 25th-anniversary celebration of the European Art and Antiques Fair, the 26th Paris Biennial of French Antiques, the Lyon Lighting Festival, the 24th general meeting of the International Association of Museums (ICOM), etc.