Body Yang’s intriguing museum paintings consider body, space, and perception

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Soon after graduating from Tianjin Fine Arts Academy with a bachelor’s degree, Yang finished Henri Matisse (2009), one of the first examples of his museum paintings, which will become a decisive body of work. The canvas represents ‘s Dance (i) (1909) hanging in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Strangely, Yang captures Matisse’s circle of dancers at an angle, as if she had painted it while standing to the side. In fact, she had never set foot in MoMA, and would not be doing so for a year; Henri Matisse was inspired by a photograph she saw in a book. The work is a strange replica of a real museum setting, but filtered through second-hand and imaginary encounters.
Yang began his “In the Museum” series in 2011, while pursuing his MFA at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The art museum, for her, is not only a neutral public place for the exhibition of works, but a sanctuary with its own “abstract atmosphere” that diffuses beyond the walls of the gallery and into itself. lingers in the consciousness of an individual. While some paintings in this series show people gazing at or positioned near the art, many omit or blur the exhibits, shifting the focus to the gallery itself. A 2016 work features a shard of an empty storefront, discernible by the subtle reflection of a glass edge, while At the museum 2018 (2018) is mainly occupied by a shaded wall and window, diverting the line of sight to the narrow window at the edge of the canvas. In their selective fields of view, these paintings are imbued with interiority, discreetly detailing fragments of the museum that usually go unnoticed and leaving Yang’s public to question their private significance. Other works are more surreal, like the oil on board In Gallery 2020 B (2020), of a tiny moon floating amid interlocking white doors that lead to an oblong void – a mirror of the Atmosphere monolith. At the Museum 2020 (with natural light) (2020), included in the first triennial of the X Museum that year in Beijing, depicts the pitch black interior of a vast room, with a single illuminated door in the center of the composition; Through this opening, a figure is shown looking at a monument strangely shrouded in fog. The series, Yang explained, “may appear to represent indoor scenes, but is really about positioning oneself at a point of view, or a spiritual level, to balance the outside world. I take the space as a frame that extends to infinity. All concrete structure derives from consciousness in weightlessness.
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