Spotlight: In a New Solo Show, Chinese Artist He Xiangyu Excavates ‘Identity Archaeology’

Using scale and medium specificity, He taps into larger conversations around East and West.

Installation view of "He Xiangyu" (2024). Photo: xf photography. Courtesy of White Space, Beijing.

Every month, hundreds of galleries add newly available works by thousands of artists to the Artnet Gallery Network—and every week, we shine a spotlight on one artist or exhibition you should know. Check out what we have in store, and inquire for more with one simple click.

What You Need to Know: On view through March 2, 2024, Beijing-based White Space is presenting a solo show of new and recent work by Chinese artist He Xiangyu (b. 1986). Based between Berlin and Beijing, He studied oil painting at Shenyang Normal University, earning his B.A. in 2008, and since has developed a practice devoted to examining and interrogating social and societal systems, structures, and relationships, as well as contemporary iconography. Some of his most notable early works leveraged scale and mass to achieve conceptual transformation, such as The Coca-Cola Project, begun in 2009 and completed in 2011, in which He boiled down 127 thousand bottles of Coca-Cola into a cola-ash. Within the present exhibition, He’s distinct capacity to experiment with medium and scale are brought to the fore, offering visitors the opportunity to explore and circumvent sculptural works that defy easy perception.

Why We Like It: Construction and structure are a highlight of He’s solo show with White Space. An undulating white metal casement featuring river stones individually set is juxtaposed with gigantic and human-scale figurative sculptures that allude to the thematic underpinnings of the show: the exploration of interactions and overlaps between East and West, and more specifically the lived experience associated with those overlaps. At once contemplative and meditative, He’s body of work shown in White Space serves as a conceptual starting point from which both artist and viewer can reflect on both the disjointed and harmonizing elements of Eastern and Western cultures, both historically and of today, offering insight into a potential new future.

According to the Gallery: “In his recent work, He revisits a series of sculptures originally crafted in response to the contemporary living conditions of Asians in the West. He reorients their conceptual focus around the notion of ‘identity archaeology.’ Examining the past and present from a near-future perspective, this body of work reflects the evolution in the artist’s thought process and execution, now situated in a broader temporal and spatial context. Contemplating the East as the origin of this expanded time-space, the artist explores how ancient dispositions and philosophies continue to influence people’s actions today, how present challenges shape future possibilities, and whether tomorrow’s vision can lead to a renewed understanding of the past and a critical reflection/correction of the present.”

See inside the exhibition below.

Installation view of “He Xiangyu” (2024). Photo: xf photography. Courtesy of White Space, Beijing.

Installation view of “He Xiangyu” (2024). Photo: xf photography. Courtesy of White Space, Beijing.

Installation view of “He Xiangyu” (2024). Photo: xf photography. Courtesy of White Space, Beijing.

He Xiangyu, detail of Circular Resistance. Courtesy of White Space, Beijing.

He Xiangyu, detail of Circular Resistance (2023). Courtesy of White Space, Beijing.

He Xiangyu, Untitled (2023). Courtesy of White Space, Beijing.

He Xiangyu, Untitled (2023). Photo: xf photography. Courtesy of White Space, Beijing.

He Xiangyu, Untitled (2023). Courtesy of White Space, Beijing.

He Xiangyu, Untitled (2023). Courtesy of White Space, Beijing.

He Xiangyu” is on view at White Space, Beijing, through March 2, 2024.


Follow Artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In