Floral Headlines

“Michael Lin: Shanghai Daily”

Leo Xu Projects (Lane 49, Building 3, Fuxing Xi Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai). Sept 7 – Oct 23, 2012.

For many years, Michael Lin has been attentive to the details of daily life, and indeed daily life in Shanghai. In 1999, the artist used the walkways of Yi Tong Park as his canvas and painted folk scenes from the everyday lives of Taiwanese people, which were then trod on by the spectators.  He skillfully blurred the lines of art and everyday life, while simultaneously creating a link between the paradigms of modern life and traditional culture.

In his 2008 solo show at the Shanghai Gallery of Art, he took a run-of-the-mill Shanghainese grocery and methodically transplanted the entire store to the gallery space. By obliterating the function of the store as a business, he questioned the definition of the entity itself, begging the question: can a store with no customers still be called a store? Or rather, should it be called art?

The themes of transience and ambiguity arose once again in the recent exhibition entitled “Model Home.” Lin imbedded his iconic wall murals within the soaring spaces of the Rockbund Art Museum. The mural highlighted the human element often overlooked in Shanghai’s massive construction projects by incorporating patterns culled from the construction workers’ bedding. Lin also got construction workers to paint his designs. The exhibit questioned the condition of construction workers, and also highlighted their position in relation to architecture and the city, as well as design. In this collaboration with Atelier Bow-Wow, Lin invited several artists to take part in what could have been a solo exhibition. His goal in doing this was to create an exhibition that was not just about a single subject, but rather a group exploration of a theme.
Taking place during 2012 SH Contemporary in Shanghai, Michael Lin’s exhibition “Shanghai Daily” (Leo Xu Projects Gallery) puts the focus purely on the artist’s works. The walls of the stairwell between the second and third floors of the gallery were covered with the artist’s floral murals. Composed of screen-printed wallpaper, this ostensibly brands the gallery space with a strong “Michael Lin” identity. Six pieces were placed in pairs on three walls of the space. Each pair was accompanied by a photograph of an ordinary newsstand. The works being displayed were close-ups of the print found in the wallpaper lining the stairwell, giving the viewer the impression of zooming in and then out of focus. The expanded prints on the walls had a blurred, abstracted beauty, while the newsstand photos gave off a sense of the ordinary. The contrasting photos and close-ups form a dialogue, and took the exhibit beyond the confines of its content.

In the photographs of the newsstand, two pieces of newspaper sealed off the opening of a storm drain. A girl stands precariously on the edge of the curb, brow furrowed, attempting to read the news. The area around her ankles is blurred, and adds to the impression of something being askew. Both the content and the composition of the photograph bore a subtle link to the prints and the wallpaper of the gallery. But it is a mystery whether viewers discovered the deeper meanings or the “everyday” hidden inside the artist’s works. Michael Lin may find that he spoke more clearly through this article, with its bolded title, and explanatory text.

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