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Beyond Reflection: The Art of Li Hongwei

Beyond Reflection: The Art of Li Hongwei is a monograph for an emerging artist from China. Hongwei is a mixed-media sculptor and an alumni of Alfred University’s ceramic program. A multi-part installation of his is being installed this year at the Art Institute of Chicago. My essay, “Summoning Eternal Life,” is included in his new book. Below is the first paragraph of the text and corresponding image.. Enjoy!

Li Hongwei provides us a work that we survey as a whole, traverse laterally across each element, and then we move in a zigzag course comparing one form against another. Their primary divergence lies in the material realm: each head is cast in its own material—bronze, stainless steel, iron. And, the three identities are pronounced and further separated by three surface treatments. On the far left is a bronze head made flesh-like in its matte patina and mottled, tan coloring with plum undertones. The vertical scarring is also purplish in hue, offering a bruised appearance. This face is more obscured than the others—one side is concealed as if a cloth has been drawn over the face. We strive to discern the particular features under this veil. The middle figure in the center is smaller than the rest and is made of stainless steel. Thrust into the foreground, the bust has a polished sheen that is marred by the long striations running vertically down the face. These scars often open up, revealing a course and gritty surface that commands our compassion. On the right is the patriarch, the largest head. Rusted oranges and strands of matted patina of flesh tones define this head of iron. His features are more pronounced than the others. This “family”—in actuality, three casts of the artist’s own features—offers rich material and metaphorical content.

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