The dynamic Asian art market that in the last decade has created an influx of international art galleries and fairs into Hong Kong has been going through ups and downs lately and, after peaking in the secondary market sales in 2011, started to show the signs of the challenging times ahead. The latest TEFAF report on the Asian art market forecasts that “the market’s next five to 10 years may look a lot less like a long-hyped bonanza and a lot more like 2018, when the Chinese market plummeted more than 16 percent in the midst of the country’s worst economic slowdown in 28 years”. Yet, despite the recent slowdown and somewhat tempered outlook, Jia Aili’s first solo show at the Gagosian in New York demonstrates that emerging artists from the region are still a hot commodity in the international art world.
Jia Aili – one of the brightest stars on the China art scene – was born in 1979 in Dandong, China, and is currently based in Beijing. The artist, who studied calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting and graduated from oil painting department at the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts, has been working with Gagosian from 2017. Jia is an incredibly prolific painter, not just in terms of quantity and scale of his works, but also in the broad range of topics he addresses – from globalization and industrialization, to ecological and identity issues, to the cultural crisis of the 21-st century China.
WHAT: Jia Aili: Combustion
WHERE: Gagosian, West 21st street, NYC
WHEN: March 7-April 13, 2019
Jia Aili: Combustion comprises twenty-nine paintings, most of which were created within the last three years, and a few older ones from the Untitled series. One could trace the evolving trajectory of Jia’s work by following the exhibition’s four sky-lit rooms to its apogee – immense four-panel Sonatine. Sonatine, the artist’s most recent work, is a meticulously composed and ingeniously executed mosaic of vibrant hard-edge geometric shapes – futuristic objects and deconstructed figures painted against dramatic landscape. Complex interwoven scenes of the later works in the series demonstrate new, altered elements as compared to Jia’s earlier Wasteland and Untitled series.
Jia’s impressive technical skills – a product of extensive traditional academic training, augmented by his unique painterly language, successfully assimilate western art concepts into Asian framework. The enigmatic composition of his paintings draws you in with its mesmerizing juxtaposition of two-dimensional planes, vibrant colors, abstract forms, and anonymous figures. Robust brush strokes that combine stylized use of mixed medium of Jia’s show-stopping works are charged with emotions and are full of symbolism.
Without a doubt, the artist’s skill, vision and impressively bold style are intriguing enough to prompt you to spend hours admiring his work or – better yet – to return to see the show once again.