The exhibition will be the artist’s first solo exhibition with Marlborough Gallery. While Xu Lei has been a prominent artistic figure in his native China since the mid-1980s, this occasion marks his first major solo exhibition in the United States.
Trained in classic Chinese painting techniques, and using traditional tools, the artist, who has had ties with the avant-garde “85 New Wave” movement, utilizes his own visual language in order to explore the relationship between the notions of “emptiness” and “phenomenal form.” In his refined and singular practice, Xu Lei retraces and revives the past while creating a dialogue between modernity and tradition.
Using rich hues, especially his favored blue, the artist evokes fantastical places—mountains, seas, skies—that are layered with noble emotion. Xu Lei has said that for him, color is ideology. His Rainbow Stone paintings from 2015 appear to be caught in the act of becoming themselves, and as writer Lilly Wei observes in the catalogue published to accompany the exhibition, evince a transition “in which the end is the beginning, the beginning the end in perpetuity.” In Augmented Dream (2015), a majestic white horse stands on a rock amongst crashing waves, enveloped in a blue mist that invokes its own kind of dream state. Landscape Fugue (2015), an astounding mural-sized work which stretches to over nineteen feet, mimics classic Chinese scrolls in scale. In this landscape, an expanse of blue partially obscures a mountain range that appears simultaneously imposing and weightless. In Dream on Wire (2015), an almost life-sized horse balances on a wire across mountains, in between swaths of yellow and green, and perhaps between the past and future, east and west.