“Soft Abstraction as Constellation” invites 28 of China’s most outstanding contemporary artists to show over 70 artworks together at UCCA Store. The exhibition aims to present a survey of disparate definitions of abstraction that have emerged over the art form’s evolution, advancing new concepts and perspectives in the field. The exhibition is jointly curated by Bao Dong and UCCA Store. Participating artists include Cai Lei, Chen Jie, Chen Youtong, Chen Yufan, Dong Dawei, Feng Zhengquan, Guan Yinfu, Huang Shuofei, Jiang Ji’an, Jiang Zhi, Liu Ke, Liu Wei, Lu Zhengyuan, Ma Shengzhe, Pan Xiaorong, Qian Lili, Ren Zhitian, Sun Xiaofeng, Wan Yang, Wang Zhiyi, Xu Ruotao, Xu Xiaoguo, Yu Xiaozhen, Zeng Hong, Zhan Rui, Zhang Ruyi, Zhou Qinshan, and Zhou Siwei.
In line with the theme of the exhibition, curator Bao Dong has undertaken a detailed analysis of the concept of “soft abstraction.” “Soft abstraction” is not a reiteration of abstract art from the art historical tradition. These seemingly “abstract” works by Chinese contemporary artists are different from abstraction in the context of Western art history. Nor are these works an extension of some art historical logic. Rather, each artist sets out from a different perspective, ultimately arriving at an abstract style. “Soft abstraction” draws upon the established conceptual terminology of “abstraction” to describe a specific external trait of contemporary art practice. It aims to understand the diversity and dynamism of artistic practice through a visual aspect. “Soft” indicates a delineation that is neither clear nor strict; “soft abstraction” is a term that is loose and inclusive. If one were so inclined, one could also call this “light abstraction” or “broad abstraction.” Of course, as viewers we can also enter into each artist’s individual world, paying no heed to the overarching concept of “abstraction.”
The over 70 artworks in the exhibition are presented in the form of a concentrated cluster. Discussing the word “constellation” in the title of the exhibition, Bao Dong notes, “A ‘constellation’ is a group of stars. In astrology, constellations are actually composed of stars from many different galaxies. In reality, these stars are very far apart from one another, yet humans endow them with a symbolic relationship based on their position within the plane of the sky—the different astrological signs. In this sense, the exhibition employs the idea of the “constellation” as a method to gather and display these artists together. By projecting the concept of “soft abstraction” onto their disparate practices, these artists are connected by a single theme.
UCCA Store is a longstanding supporter of outstanding Chinese contemporary artists and designers. Inspired by its motto “Bring Art into Your Life,” UCCA Store hopes to explore a way of life that is suffused with contemporary spirit. Speaking about this exhibition, UCCA Store Retail Director Ailsa Liu said, “If the UCCA is a catalyst for contemporary culture in China, then UCCA Store opens the door to the arcane world of art for all those who are passionate about art and life. UCCA Store hopes to bring a greater range of art merchandise and limited editions to a wider audience of art enthusiasts and collectors, promoting rational, healthy, fashionable lifestyles.” Speaking to the long-term significance of the exhibition and UCCA Store’s development, Liu said, “This exhibition pioneers a new operational model for domestic art stores. The more than 70 works in the show are all originals, and they will all be sold within UCCA Store—a first in the history of UCCA Store.” All of the works selected for the show are small-scale. They are priced fairly and accessibly. In this way, the barrier to entry for art collection is greatly lowered, ushering in an expansive new generation of middle-class art enthusiasts. Through this exhibition, UCCA Store aims to pioneer an entirely new operational model, shouldering the responsibility to act as an incubator for future art collectors alongside professional galleries.
Rooted in UCCA Store’s unique position within the greater art ecology, this exhibition also marks an important test case. Maintaining China’s leading program of limited editions, UCCA Store is as an advocate for avant-garde, young art practice. As Bao Dong has said, “This exhibition, jointly curated with UCCA Store, breaks through the restrictions of the ‘white cube’ aesthetic of museums and galleries and the ‘standardized systems’ of the market, exhibiting works that demonstrate a certain marginality and experimental quality. These works, neither large nor expensive, allow the art-loving public to approach art collecting in a manner not possible before. In this way, the store helps professional galleries by acting as an incubator for potential art collectors.”
Bao Dong (b. 1979, Anhui province) is a member of the new generation of Chinese critics and curators. Today he lives and works in Beijing. In 2006 he earned a master’s degree from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Department of Art History. Since 2003 he has curated a large number of exhibitions in art institutions across China, including UCCA; Times Museum, Guangzhou; A4 Contemporary Arts Center; and He Xiangning Art Museum. He has participated in many different academic forums and research programs. He is a contributing editor at LEAP magazine and a writer for The New York Times Chinese edition.
UCCA Store maintains China's leading program of limited editions, having collaborated with over 80 artists and 100 designers to produce specially commissioned works. It also showcases the work of cutting-edge designers, offering a wide range of original products found nowhere else. All UCCA Store proceeds support the Center’s programs and operations.