Xu Zhen and ill.i
Recently Graz completed a collaborative project with contemporary Chinese artist collective Madein Co, led by Xu Zhen.
The collaboration was a multi format expression. Beginning withÂ a video shot on site at the Madein Co. production space in Shanghai, China, where Graz worked with Harry Dawson (Bill Viola’s DOP) to capture the voice of Xu Zhen and his work. There were 2 limited edition sunglasses that embedded Madein Co.’sÂ “Turbulent Series” into a custom made acetate and then forged into frames designed by Graz for ill.i optics. This was also met with a custom made dress that is featured throughout the film. YOu can seeÂ the film on Garage Magazine HEREÂ that also includes a musical score by Graz. See the whole project HERE.
Here are words by Art WriterÂ Hunter Braithwaite about the Project.
A spray of aerosol paint, jet black, erupts in conical fumes out fromÂ a single point. The cap is re-positioned, and it sprays again. You canÂ hear the hiss in MadeIn Companyâ€™s Studio as Xu Zhen and a team ofÂ artists create his Turbulent series. The spray paint drips onto theÂ raw canvas, creating a rigid pattern, something both handmade andÂ industrial. Still, these are not made in a factoryâ€”vunless itâ€™s oneÂ alluding to Warholâ€”theyâ€™re created for a gallery wall, by an artist.
Xu Zhen was born in Shanghai in 1977, at the moment when the ideasÂ of communism began to shift into capitalism. It was an auspicious timeÂ for a person who would go on to be one of the countryâ€™s most astuteÂ critics of these systemsâ€”an irreverent figure who blends the worlds ofÂ culture and commerce in a way like nobody else. Whether remakingÂ an entire supermarket as an installation, or repainting old masterÂ paintings obscured by the flash of a camera, Xu is at the forefront ofÂ how art operates in todayâ€™s world. Case in point: he incorporated hisÂ practice in 2009 as MadeIn Company, which then released â€śXu Zhenâ€ťÂ as a brand in 2013. This sensitivity to powers surrounding art has notÂ gone unnoticed; he has exhibited at museums worldwide, representedÂ China in the 2005 Venice Biennale, and was the commissioned artist atÂ the 2014 Armory Show. Throughout his varied practice, one questionÂ emerges again and again. How can we approach something differently?
The Turbulent paintings sit within the gallery with a natural unease. TheyÂ link the measured geometry of minimalism to the performative act ofÂ painting that defined abstract expressionism. Yet it is the use of sprayÂ paint that defines them, that links them both to the walls inside theÂ gallery and those out in the city. It was this connection that caught theÂ eye of another group, based around the world, who continually redrawsÂ the boundaries between different forms of culture. Led by musician/entrepreneur Will.i.am and designer Graz Mulcahy, ill.i brings togetherÂ a team of musicians, artists and designers collaborating on new typesÂ of eyewear. Rooted in the history and ethos of hip-hop, ill.i was drawnÂ to Xu Zhenâ€™s use of spray paint, and approached him to collaborate. TheÂ artist, intrigued by the new context and medium for his work, accepted.
The resulting collaboration is simple and refined. The bold, geometricÂ patterns from the Turbulent series were embedded in the ill.iâ€™s customÂ acetate frames. One of the paintings was turned into a dress, allowingÂ the formal pattern to accentuate the female form. And then Xu ZhenÂ took it further. With his trademark subversive humor, he crafted aÂ two stone lenses for an ill.i design â€”a pair of full moons that turnedÂ sunglasses into an objet dâ€™art. The result of this collaboration isÂ unprecedented in the world of eyewear, but thatâ€™s the nature ofÂ creative collaboration. In a cultural landscape defined by both intenseÂ specialization and ceaseless fluidity, certain questions have begun toÂ dominate the conversation: How does one artist influence another? HowÂ does a designer think about something differently? How can a companyÂ present it in an unexpected way? How do you create a new experience?