Tobias Rehberger
Blind and a little less

25.5.- 11.8. 2019
Opening: Saturday, May 25, 2019, 4 - 6.30pm





Tobias Rehberger
Blind and a little less


Galerie Urs Meile is pleased to announce Blind and a little less, Tobias Rehberger’s second solo exhibition with the gallery after Das Kind muss raus presented in Beijing in 2014. Following a major solo exhibition devoted to Tobias Rehberger at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai – If you don’t use your eyes to see, you will use them to cry (March 23 – May 26, 2019) – Blind and a little less draws on the Shanghai exhibition and delves further into existing themes and series of works. Divided into four parts, the exhibition includes a first section dedicated to the ongoing Vase Portrait series (1997-2019); a second section presenting brand new sun-like lamps (2019) and some 16 lamps from the ongoing Infection series (2002-2019); a third section consisting in 4 pixelated large-scale tableaux (2019); and a final section presenting new LED works (2019) and some watercolors (2019). Across a large array of techniques and mediums, Tobias Rehberger once again blurs the lines between conceptual art, sculpture, interior design and architecture.

The vases and flowers in the first room form “portraits” of friends and acquaintances, representational but not literally. The vases are as diverse as the subjects, in shape and materials, including glass, ceramics, plastic, 3D-printed aluminum and felt. Like friends and social acquaintances, there are more permanent elements (the vases) and more ephemeral ones (the flowers – which eventually wilt and must be replaced, though always with the same type of flowers). The vases are portraits of nine artists represented by Galerie Urs Meile, who each completed their respective portrait by choosing the flowers to be displayed in it. Together the portraits form a matrix of histories, connections and influences. And the smell! The room is heady with the perfume of all the flowers, their pollen floating around and making people sneeze, embodying artistic crosspollination and allergic reactions.

Five sun-like glass globes hang to the right of the second space, each remotely connected to a romantic beach across the globe. The five lamps are titled after the name of the beach they are assigned to, and they are programmed to automatically switch on and off according to the local time at which the sun rises and sets in each of the five locations over a period of 100 years. This series of works highlights a recurrent contradiction in Rehberger's works, namely the superimposition of romantic themes and the use of technology. The left side of the room showcases chandeliers of bands of colored Velcro tapes, squiggle lines of color, that seem to float, as if drawn freely in space. The Infection series, which began in 2002, starts as compositions made by Rehberger’s assistants. The artist then intervenes with his own artistic editing but without adding materials, in an approach of “controlled chance” and “deferred authorship”. There is a light touch to these chandeliers, sculptures that illuminate the space but also our understanding. Sculptures are traditionally thought of as matter in space, but these Infections transmit light, light from inside a drawing composed of swishes of color that curl through air, the two-dimensional colored bands transforming three dimensional space, relying on gravity and material tension to hold their curling forms. Of course, they are also held up by the very cables which powers the light – each element relies for existence upon the others.

The third space might be the one that best embodies the title of the exhibition. At first these colorful pixelated tableaux have a child-like charm as visitors discover the trick, as if something secret was revealed. These apparently abstract conglomerates of tiles start revealing themselves as viewers pause, fold their eyes, tilt their head and filter the image through the lens of a camera in order to decipher these encrypted images. The colored slump suddenly takes shape before the viewers’ eyes, as if they had become a little less blind. Six wall-mounted shelves are skillfully camouflaged in the work, an omnipresent technique in Rehberger’s practice, who enjoys blurring the limits between the visible and the invisible, ultimately questioning the very nature of art: is art something to be stared at directly, or rather something to be experienced in a much broader sense?

The fourth room of the exhibition features a series of watercolors as well as two new LED works, which imitate the likes of flickering advertising signs. However, the familiar commercial slogan is replaced here by two antagonist adages commonly attached to popular wisdom (as does the figure of Pinocchio): “everything/nothing happens for a reason”. As the lights flicker, one can alternatively read “very happea” and “not happea”. Immersed in colorful lights, the audience is encouraged to take a look at the commercial and moral values of society from a different perspective. The watercolors exhibited in this space also invite viewers to reflect on social conventions and interactions, as they all show cigarette butts crushed into half-emptied plates of food.

Tobias Rehberger (*1966 in Esslingen, Germany) lives and works in Frankfurt am Main, Germany and has been a professor of Fine Arts at the Frankfurt Städelschule since 2001. Selected solo exhibitions and projects include If you don’t use your eyes to see, you will use them to cry, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2019); Yourself is sometimes a place to call your own, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan, South Korea (2018); 24 Stops, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland (2016); Home and Away and Outside, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany (2014); Tobias Rehberger: Wrap it up, MACRO Museum, Rome, Italy (2014); Dazzle Ship London, River Thames, London, United Kingdom (2012); When I See the Other Side of Heaven, It Is Just as Blue (commission), The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea (2012); Nest (commis- sion), Bloomberg SPACE, London, United Kingdom (2012); Tobias Rehberger, MAXXI, Rome, Italy (2010); The Chicken-and-Egg-No-Problem Wall-Painting, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2008); On Otto, Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2007); Get a New Liver, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom (2006); Private Matters, Whitechapel Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2004); Night Shift, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2002) and The Sun from Above, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA (2000). Rehberger was awarded a Golden Lion as best artist at the 2009 Biennale di Venezia.

The above text includes excerpts from an essay written by Christopher Moore on the exhibitions If you don’t use you eyes to see, you will use them to cry (Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai) and Blind and a little less (Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing). Christopher Moore is an art historian, critic and cofounder of Ran Dian art magazine, where he held the position of publisher from 2010 to 2018. He then joined NRM, a new curatorial consultancy. Moore continues to contribute to Ran Dian and he is the editor of a monograph on Xu Zhen, published by Distanz in 2014.


Zhang Xuerui
The Everyday as Ontology

6.6.- 17.8. 2019
Opening: Thursday, June 6, 2019, 5.30 - 7.30pm

Zhang Xuerui

400 201805 - 1 & 400 201805 - 2, 2018
acrylic on canvas,
2 x 240 x 240 cm



Zhang Xuerui
The Everyday as Ontology


2019 (english) 


Galerie Urs Meile Beijing is pleased to announce The Everyday as Ontology, the first solo exhibition of Chinese artist Zhang Xuerui (*1979, lives and works in Beijing) at our gallery. The exhibition will present Zhang Xuerui's most recent paintings combined with her textile installations. Her paintings are often quick categorized as "abstract painting". It seems like a simple task to understand her works. An experienced viewer could be able to discern her methodologies quickly, which is to strictly divide the canvas into an orderly grid, and to fill the units in that grid with gradually shifting colors. People often classify her works as part of one of the various art trends of Western contemporary art, such as post-painterly abstraction, hard edge abstraction, minimalism, however, it would be a too cursory decision. If abstraction in Western art has clear conceptual pursuits within the art history context, then in comparison, not only has "abstraction" not formed into a specific art history narrative in China, it is actually a style that stretches back into ancient times, from folk decorations to literati calligraphy and imperial ornamentation. In ancient Chinese tradition, "abstraction" is an established fact, an everyday aesthetic, and for that reason, there never arose a need for discourse, nor did there ever form a corresponding set of critical concepts.

For the artists of Zhang Xuerui's generation, the visual resources of Western contemporary art have appeared before them in a fragmentary form. Abstraction is merely one of the many styles available to reference. In Zhang Xuerui's case, she has her own special content and meaning behind her "abstraction." She majored in architecture, which has to some extent influenced her precise grid style and sophisticated painting method: once she has begun to paint, she must continue until she finishes one row of the grid, as the adjoining colors in the gradient must be completed while the paint is still wet. Zhang Xuerui's approach also encompasses a process of aestheticization of everyday time and the labor of the body; time and labor have been marked down in each single individual square of the grid to become subjects of self-reflection and contemplation. For her, the grid approach to painting also evokes the experience of practicing calligraphy using square guidelines. The structure of her paintings is just like the calligraphy practice books from her childhood, using squares as their fundamental units.

Zhang Xuerui often starts with three corners of the painting, deciding the colors of these three squares. Her next task is to then form a virtually undetectable transition between them. For this reason, by the time she begins the color gradient component, the tones or the order of the colors is no longer the most important task. This is especially the case when she focuses her attention within a single grid. Within this one isolated unit, the act of painting, and the control of the body's movements, form an immersive experience. In addition, the highly compressed color contrasts of the neighboring squares focus our attention on the finest color perceptions, while our judgment of the whole is temporarily suspended, which is to say that the viewing of the painting has, just like the act of painting itself, entered into a linear (temporal) experience. In this sense, Zhang Xuerui's painting touches on the sense of the everyday we all inhabit, magnifying a detail, or extending a moment, concentrating on a single shaft of bamboo while ignoring the forest around it.

One meaningful detail is that in a given period, the individual squares in her grids will all be virtually the same size, regardless of the dimensions of the canvas. In other words, the wholes of her artworks do not precede the parts. She does not predetermine such metaphysical concepts as wholeness or completeness, and metaphysical properties are usually typical markers of Western modernist abstraction. All of her chosen colors are compound colors, colors closer to the actual appearance of nature. In her most moving paintings, the gradient color fields present us with the colors of the sky, as if they are records of daylight over time, as well as a salute to a day's labor in the studio, just as her artworks are named only by the time they were completed.

In analyzing and discussing Zhang Xuerui's paintings, we should not overlook her textile works, which form a corresponding clue to her paintings. In these works, she often cuts out patterns on blankets or clothing-sometimes flowers, sometimes hearts, sometimes circles-then rearranges and affixes them together in a new layout that often resembles an abstract painting. These artworks more clearly reveal her close examination of everyday life experience: this items are often something once worn or used by herself or her family members which bear loads of her individual memories and experiences. For Zhang Xuerui, art is not the opposite of life, on-canvas art is not the opposite of off-canvas art, abstraction is not the opposite of representation, and contemporary is not the opposite of tradition. For this reason, we have no need to distinguish between her art and her life. When she has labored on her painting for a day, she has lived for a day. Life and art are both passing the days, with perceptible time as its ontology.

(The above text includes excerpts from Bao Dong's essay The Everyday as Ontology - Everyday Time in the Painting of Zhang Xuerui written for this exhibition.)


Zhang Xuerui
The Everyday as Ontology

2019 (deutsch)

Wir freuen uns, die erste Einzelausstellung der chinesischen Künstlerin Zhang Xuerui (*1979, lebt und arbeitet in Peking) The Everyday as Ontology in der Galerie Urs Meile Beijing anzukündigen. In der Ausstellung wird eine Kombination aus Zhang Xueruis neueste Gemälde und Textilinstallationen zu sehen sein. Immer wieder werden Zhang Xueruis Gemälde vorschnell in die Kategorie „abstrakte Malerei“ eingeordnet. Auf den ersten Blick scheinen ihre Arbeiten leicht verständlich. Erfahrene Betrachter dürften ihre Vorgehensweise schnell herausfinden: Die Leinwand wird sorgfältig in ein Raster eingeteilt, die einzelnen Einheiten dieses Rasters werden anschließend mit graduell voneinander abweichenden Farben ausgefüllt. Häufig werden Zhang Xueruis Arbeiten einem der zahlreichen zeitgenössischen westlichen Kunsttrends wie der Nachmalerischen Abstraktion, Hard Edge oder dem Minimalismus zugeordnet, doch diese Einordnung greift zu kurz. In der westlichen Kunstgeschichte mag Abstraktion klare konzeptuelle Ziele verfolgen, in China ist dies nicht der Fall. Hier ist „Abstraktion“ kein spezifisches Narrativ der Kunstgeschichte, sondern vielmehr ein Stil, der bis weit in die Vergangenheit zurückreicht – von traditionellen Verzierungen über Literati-Kalligraphie bis hin zu den ornamentalen Mustern der Kaiserzeit. In der chinesischen Tradition ist „Abstraktion“ seit langem eine Tatsache, eine Ästhetik des Alltags. Aus diesem Grund entstanden in China weder das Bedürfnis nach einem entsprechenden Diskurs noch entsprechende kritische Konzepte. 

Den Künstlerinnen und Künstlern aus Zhang Xueruis Generation offenbarten sich die Bildwelten der zeitgenössischen westlichen Kunst in fragmentarischer Form: Abstraktion ist für sie lediglich einer von vielen Stilen, die als mögliche Bezugspunkte dienen. Hinter Zhang Xueruis „Abstraktion“ verbirgt sich ein ganz eigener Inhalt, eine ganz eigene Bedeutung. In gewissem Maße ist ihr präziser Rasterstil und ihre anspruchsvolle Maltechnik auch von ihrem Architekturstudium beeinflusst. Sobald sie einmal mit dem Malen begonnen hat, darf sie damit nicht aufhören, bis eine Reihe des Rasters fertiggestellt ist: Die im Farbverlauf angrenzenden Farbflächen müssen vollendet werden, solange die Farbe noch feucht ist. Zhang Xueruis Vorgehensweise ist sowohl ein Prozess der Ästhetisierung des Alltags als auch körperliche Arbeit; in jedem einzelnen Rechteck des Rasters steckt Zeit und Arbeit, dadurch wird jedes Rechteck zum Gegenstand von Selbstreflexion und Kontemplation. Außerdem verweist die Rastermalerei auf Zhang Xueruis eigene Erfahrungen bei Kalligraphie-Übungen, in denen man Rechtecke als Hilfsmittel verwendet. Die Struktur ihrer Gemälde ist von den Kalligraphie-Übungsbüchern aus ihrer Kindheit beeinflusst, in denen Rechtecke die Grundeinheiten bildeten. 

Oft beginnt Zhang Xuerui ihre Arbeit, indem sie sich in drei Ecken des Gemäldes für eine Farbe im jeweiligen Rechteck entscheidet. Der nächste Schritt ist dann die Schaffung eines kaum wahrnehmbaren Übergangs zwischen den Farben. Sobald sie mit der Arbeit am Farbverlauf beginnt, sind weder die einzelnen Farbtöne noch die Anordnung der Farben die wichtigste Aufgabe. Wenn sie ihre Aufmerksamkeit auf ein Raster konzentriert, wird innerhalb dieser abgeschlossenen Einheit sowohl der Malprozess als auch die Kontrolle über die Körperbewegungen zu einer immersiven Erfahrung. Während die Farbkontraste der angrenzenden Rechtecke unsere Aufmerksamkeit auf feinste Farbunterschiede lenken, setzt unsere Beurteilung des Ganzen kurzzeitig aus. Die Betrachtung des Gemäldes wird, wie auch der Malprozess selbst, zu einer linearen (zeitlichen) Erfahrung. Indem sie ein Detail vergrößern oder einen Moment verlängern, wirkt Zhang Xueruis Malerei auf unseren Alltagssinn – ganz so, als würde man sich auf ein einziges Bambusrohr konzentrieren und darüber den umgebenden Wald vergessen. 

Ein bedeutendes Detail: Die einzelnen Rechtecke in Zhang Xueruis Rastern erscheinen, unabhängig von der Leinwandgröße, irgendwann nahezu in derselben Größe. Mit anderen Worten: In Zhang Xueruis Kunst hat das Ganze keinen Vorrang vor den einzelnen Bestandteilen. Metaphysische Konzepte wie Ganzheit oder Vollständigkeit werden von ihr nicht im Vornherein festgelegt, derlei metaphysische Eigenschaften sind für gewöhnlich typische Erkennungszeichen westlich-modernistischer Abstraktion. All ihre Farben sind Mischfarben, naturnahe Farben. In ihren berührendsten Gemälden wirken die verschiedenfarbigen Felder wie die Farben des Himmels, wie Aufzeichnungen des Tageslichts zu verschiedenen Tageszeiten oder Verweise auf Arbeitstage im Atelier. Nicht ohne Grund sind die Titel ihrer Kunstwerke nach dem Zeitpunkt ihrer Fertigstellung benannt. 

Bei der Betrachtung und Analyse von Zhang Xueruis Gemälden muss man auch ihre Textilarbeiten miteinbeziehen, sie bilden einen Schlüssel zu ihrer Malerei. In diesen Arbeiten schneidet sie mithilfe von Schablonen verschiedene Formen wie Blumen, Herzen oder Kreise aus Decken und Kleidungsstücken, die sie dann neu arrangiert, sodass sie häufig an abstrakte Gemälde erinnern. In diesen Arbeiten zeigt sich noch deutlicher ihre intensive Beschäftigung mit dem Alltagsleben: Die Textilien sind oft von ihr oder ihren Verwandten getragen oder verwendet worden und wurden so zu Zeugnissen individueller Erinnerungen und Erfahrungen. Für Zhang Xuerui ist Kunst nicht das Gegenteil von Leben, Leinwandkunst nicht das Gegenteil von Nicht-Leinwandkunst, Abstraktion nicht das Gegenteil von Darstellung, zeitgenössische Moderne nicht das Gegenteil von Tradition. Daher ist es auch nicht nötig, zwischen ihrer Kunst und ihrem Leben zu unterscheiden. Wenn sie einen Tag an einem Gemälde gearbeitet hat, hat sie einen Tag gelebt. Leben und Kunst überholen gleichermaßen die Tage, und die wahrnehmbare Zeit ist ihre Ontologie. 

(Dieser Text enthält Ausschnitte aus Bao Dongs Essay The Everyday as Ontology - Everyday Time in the Painting of Zhang Xuerui, der für diese Ausstellung geschrieben wurde.)