Lisson Gallery

Asian Art Initiative of the Guggenheim Museum announces further details of Yu Hong solo exhibition 'Another One Bites the Dust' in Venice

21 March 2024

The Asian Art Initiative of the Guggenheim Museum, New York, has announced further details of the first major exhibition in Europe of contemporary artist Yu Hong. Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust will take place in the Chiesetta della Misericordia, Cannaregio, Venice, concurrently with the 60th International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia, from 20 April to 24 November, 2024. The presentation is organized by Alexandra Munroe, Senior Curator at Large, Global Arts, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation. The exhibition will be accompanied by a specially commissioned immersive soundscape by composer Nico Muhly that will premiere on June 6, 2024, and run for the duration of the exhibition.

Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust will feature new figurative and narrative paintings that respond to the architectural and cultural context of the Chiesetta della Misericordia, a deconsecrated Romanesque-Byzantine church founded by Augustinian friars in the tenth century. Conditioned by this architectural site, the exhibition will present Yu Hong’s work outside the bounds of art-historical conventions, examining the artist’s worlding of supernatural realism as a radically anachronistic stance that further destabilizes our notions of contemporary life.

Works in the Exhibition

The works in Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust upend the epic themes of sacred art while embracing painting’s capacity to portray the human condition—the sorrows, absurdities, and transcendence of bodily existence. The large tondo paintings Birth (2022) and Death (2022) are set against a gold ground: a newborn held by a doctor’s prophylactic gloves and connected to its mother by an umbilical cord will be paired across the nave with the bare feet of several cadavers.

The exhibition’s centerpiece will be a ten-part painting, Walking through Life (2019–22), suspended as a semicircle in the choir. Progressing from left to right, each arched panel depicts a scene of different physical stages of life as conditioned and contorted by social norms, gender roles, and political realities: child acrobats strain in circus acts; adolescents “bite the dust” as they lie handcuffed, face down; young women bare themselves but hide their faces, their identities reduced to hollow constructs of social media; naked women in maturity wrap themselves in plastic, hoping to “remold” their aging bodies; and three people and a dog wrestle in the darkness of a void.

For the apse, Yu Hong has created a work to fit the specific architectural dimensions of the church’s Baroque altar. In a nod to Caravaggio’s The Acts of Mercy (Le opere della Misericordia, 1607) at the Pio Monte della Misericordia in Naples, Make a Wish (2023) stages seven human events in a single composition, each one extreme and desperate but somehow miraculous too.

Turning around, visitors will find the main entrance obscured by the 9-meter-long canvas The Ship of Fools (2021), whose towering schooner will appear beached on the church floor. The final work will be a triptych installed in a small chapel off the vestibule. Painted recto and verso on a gold ground, Death Can’t Be Known until One Knows Life (2023) depicts disembodied outstretched arms, from those of a child to those of an elder, each gesturing heavenward in either hope or futility. The work is in the museum collection of the Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples.

Commission

A specially commissioned immersive soundscape by acclaimed composer Nico Muhly, prerecorded and presented in surround sound throughout the Chiesetta della Misericordia, will accompany the exhibition. To the Body (2024) is a meditation on Yu Hong’s Another One Bites the Dust. The piece associates Yu Hong’s ten-part panel painting Walking through Life (2019–22), and its obsessive focus on contorted and disembodied body parts, with the cantata Membra Jesu Nostri (1680) by the Danish composer of the Baroque period Dieterich Buxtehude (1637–1707), in which seven cantatas address Christ’s wounds on the cross.

To the Body is a musical work in ten sections, played without pause and repeated without seam, in which fragments of Membra Jesu Nostri appear, themselves disembodied from their original context. A soprano sings a Latin line, which translates as, “from which gushes the spring of blood which cleans the dirty hearts” over a bed of electronically manipulated sounds, Renaissance and Baroque instruments, and other voices. The primary musical and emotional elements are memory, contortion, and recontextualization; these act hand-in-hand with Yu Hong’s work, as well as in counterpoint to them.

Muhly has remarked: “In Yu Hong’s work, we are invited to pause on bodies in extreme conditions: contorted, wrapped in plastic, collapsed and bound. It’s both a perversion and acknowledgement of the things we do to our own flesh, and of that which is done by others.” In relation to his composition, To the Body, he writes: “While artificial manipulation of the body through contortion, injury, or extreme self-starvation is hard to depict musically, electronically manipulated sounds offer a possibility. An instrument whose range ends at middle C can be hyperextended into grotesquely beautiful stretches; a single sung line, so limited in length by biology, can be made superhuman — a sort of æolian cave of endless pulmonary capacity. Although these techniques permeate To the Body, the piece begins and ends with the oldest instrument: breath.”

To the Body will premiere at the Chiesetta della Misericordia, Cannaregio, Venice on June 6, 2024, and run daily through November 24, 2024. A live performance of To the Body will be presented by Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, on November 10, 2024.

Public Programs

The exhibition will be accompanied by a program of public talks and performances in Venice and New York. The first one will take place on April 19, 2024, at 3pm. “Yu Hong at the Chiesetta della Misericordia” will be a roundtable talk with artist Yu Hong, curator Alexandra Munroe, and Hou Hanru, curator and former Artistic Director, MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome. It will take place at the Cloister of Chiesa dell’Abbazia della Misericordia, Cannaregio, Venice.

On June 6, 2024, at 5pm, Nico Muhly will present the world premiere of To the Body on site at the Chiesetta della Misericordia, Cannaregio, Venice, with a lecture followed by discussion.

On September 28, 2024, at 5pm, artist Michael Armitage and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries, London will converse on the topic, “The Choice of Realism.” This event will take place at the Chiesetta della Misericordia, Cannaregio, Venice.

On November 10, 2024, at 7pm, a live performance of To the Body will be presented by Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Publication

Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by DelMonico Books/D.A.P. It will feature the following content: an introductory essay by Alexandra Munroe, exhibition curator, which positions Yu Hong’s practice in a global history of figurative and narrative painting, outside the bounds of regional or period art-historical conventions; a scholarly essay by Loredana Gazzara, Curator, Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples and a leading scholar of that confraternity’s most famous painting, Caravaggio’s The Acts of Mercy (1607), which links the tumultuous realism of the Baroque painter to that of Yu Hong, through what she calls their “identical allegorical humanity”; a conversation between painter Michael Armitage and Yu Hong that reveals a kinship of studio craft and a shared belief in the political urgency of figurative painting today, albeit from two very different positions. Finally, the catalogue will feature an extensive composer’s note on the commission To the Body by Nico Muhly that describes associations between Yu Hong’s paintings in Another One Bites the Dust and the cantata Membra Jesu Nostri (1680) by the Danish composer of the Baroque period Dieterich Buxtehude, and how the two disparate artistic interests in bodily suffering and trauma translate into a musical score.

Image: Yu Hong 喻红, Death Can’t Be Known until One Knows Life 未知生焉知死, 2023, Acrylic on canvas 布面丙烯, Open /展开: 30 x 43 x 3.5cm ©YuHong.Courtesy Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples

Asian Art Initiative of the Guggenheim Museum announces further details of Yu Hong solo exhibition 'Another One Bites the Dust' in Venice
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