“Water Work,” solo exhibition by Yun-Fei Ji.
Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (798 Art District, No.4 Jiuxianqiao Road, P.O.Box 8503, Chaoyang District, Beijing). Jun 3-Jul 15, 2012.
Yun-Fei Ji’s solo exhibition “Water Work” brings a breath of subtlety to UCCA following GUEST’s appearance in the last collaborative edition of the “Curated By…” series, a residue from Jerome Sans’ term at the organization. Phil Tinari’s exhibitions are putting more New York into Beijing: the New Yorker photographic exhibition is (finally) about to come down, and Yun-Fei Ji made his name in Brooklyn during the 1990s as a painter. Ji returned to his native Beijing three years ago, and continues to work in Chinese ink deftly combined with watercolor, pencil, woodblock, and etching on paper — skills at which he excels.
On display in the Long Gallery, now closed off to avoid the open-ended atrium feel it had before, are a series of works from the last decade to the present day. Their narratives are highly absorbing, charting recent Chinese and world happenings such as the Three Gorges Dam and Hurricane Katrina. The compositions Ji conjures fuse reality with socio-political sensation and deep imagination. Spreading over large frames and on scrolls running into the corner and down the middle of the exhibition, they are replete with figures, animals, movement and wit. A wonderful performance by the string quartet of The Philadelphia Orchestra accompanied the opening, with compositions by Dvorak and Shostakovich performed in response to the works on show, the musicians having worked together with Yun-Fei Ji to produce special versions for the occasion. In all, a thoroughly worthwhile exhibition.