Seoul, April 28 – August 14, 2016, http://www.plateau.or.kr
Each room of the gallery contained one large sculptural installation made using a different material. Retro-futurist metal and translucent color plastic in a dialogue with Rodin’s Gates of Hell. Huge monolith-like blocks carved out of pressed and glued together books. Towering gothic cathedral-like assemblages of recycled construction site rubble. One room stood a bit apart, featuring Liu’s early work/joke, a photograph of human behinds staged in such a way that it looked like a traditional Chinese ink painting of a mountain landscape.
This show was a great example of the speed and smoothness with which Chinese artists adapt to the global art world/market demands. While Mao portraits and cynical realism were in fashion during the 90’s and a criticism/fascination with consumer capitalism in the 00’s, Liu’s work from the current decade accomplishes a complete integration with the global tastes, including an expectation of Chinese-ness. The art is monumental. It references (a fetishized) modernism (in the first room), the idea of China as both cultured (“5000 years”) and autocratic (books/culture like a mere building material within a greater plan of things), the rapid urban development and changing social structures (material recycling, sticking to a color scheme reminiscent of school and hospital furniture). The early photo and video work serves as a kind of footnote here: It all began as a joke.
The show felt complete and self-confident. The pieces fit together like a puzzle. It spoke an international art language of relational aesthetics while maintaining an internal coherence.
Sadly, according to the press release, this has been the last exhibition in Plateau before it closes. I heard it is due to internal Samsung politics (a transfer of power from Mr. Lee Sr. to Mr. Lee Jr. who’s not that keen on art) as well as below-optimal financial results and cost saving. This show has been a very decent and well-rounded goodbye.