Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition in New York of Geng Jianyi titled Book Without Words. This exhibition, curated by Chinese art critic and scholar Zheng Shengtian, is a playful exploration on the tactile experience of reading books. Geng Jianyi creates mechanical book installations to call attention to the physical methods in which we read books. The repetitive motion of the turning pages moved by an invisible hand invites visitors to ponder their own act of flipping through pages.
While many Chinese artists like Xu Bing and Huang Yongping, have deconstructed books, language and calligraphy successfully, Geng Jianyi’s interests lie in the relationship between people and books. This exhibition is part of his evolving exploration of this concept. Geng Jianyi’s earlier work approaches books as a medium for transmitting knowledge and recording information. In Reading (1990), he asked visitors to his home to dip their fingers in seal paste and to read an empty book. The result is a record of the traces left behind by all the people who looked through the book. The installations in Book Without Words provide another fresh look into the way in which we experience reading.
Despite Geng Jianyi’s long-standing obsession with books, it was his oil paintings of laughing faces that propelled him to the center of the contemporary Chinese art scene in the 1980s. These faces became an iconic image in contemporary Chinese art, but Geng Jianyi felt limited by painting and moved on to investigate photography, installation and conceptual art. He has since exhibited at the Venice, Gwangju and Shanghai Biennale as well as in notable exhibitions such as Alors, La Chine (2003) at the Pompidou Center in France and Cities on the Move (1997) in Austria.
Curator of this exhibition, Zheng Shengtian is an accomplished scholar and professor in contemporary Chinese and Asian Art. In addition to organizing exhibitions, he is also the Managing Editor of Yishu, the only English language magazine on contemporary Chinese art. Geng Jianyi was among the first group of Zheng Shengtian’s students at the Zhejian Fine Art Institute, Hangzhou, in 1983.
Having kept close ties with Geng Jianyi, Zheng asserts, “In more than two decades, Jianyi has continuously explored, asked questions, experimented and transcended himself. He has shown the most essential characteristics of an avant-garde artist.” This exhibition will provide an opportunity for the American public to become acquainted with one aspect of the work of this quietly powerful artist.