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The Gallery Gazetteer


Liao Yibai's reminiscences of childhood torn between two words.


Liao Yibai "Fake Lion Dad," 2008. Stainless steel, 90 lbs. 41 x 21 x 34 inches. Photo by Mike Weiss Gallery.

What seems to be some funny, cartoon-style, large, steel, Chinese sculptures in fact deal with important politics and historic issues of the past century in Liao Yibai's exhibit "Imaginary Enemy." These original sculptures, made by the an artist who grew up in China during the Cold War, will be at Mike Weiss Gallery in Chelsea from May 8 to August 15, 2009.

Liao Yibai, Fighting Shadow, 2009
Stainless steel, 41 lbs. 21 x 57 x 16 inches. Photo by Mike Weiss Gallery.

Between 1947 and 1991, the world was torn in two. The ideological confrontation between Communism and the Capitalism system contributed to the Cold War. It is in these circumstances that Liao Yibai grew up. As the artist said: "I was born, unfortunately, in a top-secret missile factory during the Cold War." Liao Yibai, through his art, presents a metaphoric view on America from the perspective of a Chinese child.

In fact, each sculpture in the gallery represents a souvenir of Yibai's childhood, his discoveries of American culture, the Cold War and his perception of capitalism.

Liao Yibai graduated with a degree in Fine Art at Sichuan Academy. The 38-year-old artist has been presented in China and Europe; this is his first exhibit in New York. He currently lives and works in Beijing and Chongqing Sichuan province in China.

Liao Yibai's work is educational as well as artistic. The galleries were full of young students, listening attentively to their teacher, who was trying to explain to them the Cold War and the concepts of Capitalism and Communism.

Top Secret Hamburger, by Liao Yibai, 2009. Stainless steel, 330 lbs. 37 x 66 x 66 inches. Photo by Mike Weiss Gallery.

When you arrive in the gallery, one of the first sculptures you see is a hamburger with the words "TOP SECRET" written on the bun, in Chinese and English. The sculpture relates to a story of Yibai's childhood. When a classmate's father came back from the U.S, everyone in the village asked him to bring back a hamburger, because no one in the village was able to explain to the child what a hamburger was. So he brought back a hamburger and on the top of the box, the father had written "TOP SECRET."

Liao Yibai. Cash Fighting, 2009. Stainless steel, 161 lbs. 32 x 52 x 30 inches. Photo by Milke Weiss Gallery.

Another sculpture, entitled, "Cash Fighting," depicts a Chinese man and an American fighting between U.S. and Chinese currency notes. The sculpture alludes to the continuing economic battle between China and America, between the Dollar and the Yen.

These funny and cartoon style sculptures contrast with the serious subjects of the exhibit. Yibai tries to make us understand that the "enemy" during the Cold War is a relative concept. Each piece of the exhibit has a fantastic story to tell, and funny anecdotes, about the discoveries and confrontations between Eastern and Western cultures that are sometimes hard for western people to imagine and understand. [Suzanne Trouve Feff]

Mike Weiss Gallery
Facade of Mike Weiss Gallery. Photo by Mike Weiss Gallery.

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Suzanne Trouve Feff, a native of Paris, is a contributor to the Museum Gazeeter.