Artforum: Robin Peckham on Yu Honglei

Published in Artforum

By: Robin Peckham

Aug 20, 2016

Yu Honglei frames his work in Platonic universals: It’s about flattening the architecture he lives in, the popular media he consumes, and the art history he has studied into a single plane of forms and ideas that coalesce into a practice.

Perhaps this is what every artist does in principle, but it’s rare to see one who enjoys working with such playful intellectual purity. It’s refreshing that this body of work comes without a mission statement, and more than a little fun to guess at the semiotic connections between sculptures and their seemingly nonsensical titles. In this exhibition, Yu positions eleven sculptures on seafoam-green pedestals of equal size, the better to frame the idea that every piece is about the principles of composition in general. He allows process to produce meaning, as in Elephant, 2016, which consists of two cartoonishly thin copper bird feet that merge with bamboo segments modeled after the same source, a simple visual rhyme said to have emerged accidentally while he was looking for techniques to extend the legs.

A new video, En Route, 2016, continues the art-historical appropriation of his video Take a Walk, 2014, this time utilizing only one source: Lawrence Weiner’s text works. The elder Conceptualist’s stark compositions are overlaid on moving images from car-centric films, creating the effect of a weirdly futuristic exploration of barren and primitive worlds—a road trip through fields of symbolic debris, not unlike the physical experience of being present in Yu’s exhibition.

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