Artco China Exhibition Review | Alice Wang

Li Suchao, Artco China, October 1, 2017

LA-based Chinese Canadian artist Alice Wang is currently exhibiting in a solo show at Capsule Shanghai. As usual, she uses only her name as the title of the exhibition. All her works are titled “Untitled”. The exhibition press release does not contain any explanation for her works and only includes a brief artist biography. In the press release issued by Capsule Shanghai, Wang decided to use a periodic table in place of text. She rarely offers explanation for her works and attempts to relinquish any control as an artist unto the works themselves.

This leads to some confusion upon initial viewing her show: A mimosa pudica with leaves that shrink at the slightest touch greet guests at the entrance; a cone-shaped floor installation is covered by moss; a configuration of white porcelain pieces resembling a cracked riverbed or map is laid on the ground; silver-painted clam fossils are laid out against a wall; a tall rectangle made of beeswax contains a large circular hole from which wind emits; an elegant copper plate leans against the wall.

The other room features a video composed of scenes of minor changes that take place in nature, like the forming and dissipating of clouds, vegetation growth, and fluctuating of daylight. When connected to the periodic table from the press release, audiences realize all the works have to do with nature. They are all made from natural materials, and like humans, are a miniscule element of the universe, like dust.

 Wang’s works often consider the relationship between the macroscopic universe and microscopic things. The universe contains infinite hidden possibilities that serve as a source for Wang’s work. Her art is inspired by the transformation and intersection of materials. She is a keen observer of the minute changes that take place within matter.

The works using mimosa pudica, moss and clams change depending on their environment. Such changes are minute and easily neglected, like the passing of time. As the very method for the works’ existence, they cause audiences to look at them anew, reminding us to reflect on the core of humanity. 

Rust stains formed on the copper plate due to oxidation recall the Bronze Age from 5,000 years ago, when humans existed too. The formation of copper as an element (Cu) dates back as far as the beginning of earth, 4.55 billion years ago.

Wang’s show gives profound thought to the role of geology, time and humans in the natural world. Wang said, “I am intimately related with deep time. This relationship is always in my heart and grows continuously.” 

Translated from the Chinese by Philana Woo