Art Labor Gallery seeks to carve out a unique space between contemporary international art and Chinese art while featuring work that explores the tensions between tradition and the cutting edge.
In terms of the work shown on the storefront gallery’s wall, that often means new and emerging artists, new styles, new materials and an emphasis on a return to craftsmanship and skill.
In even more concrete terms, visitors are as likely to see work by Chinese artists combining sophisticated references to global pop and media culture with new takes on old techniques, from ceramics to paper cutting to ink wash painting on rice paper scrolls. Or they might chance across a show featuring non-Chinese artists working in new and mixed media incorporating everything from epoxy resin to elaborately lathed woodwork to painstakingly manipulated digital photographic prints.
The gallery’s point is that Chinese art is international art and that international art has a home in China, in dialog with Chinese artists and curators; Art Labor seeks to illuminate one path leading from the post-Cultural Revolution creative impasse that Chinese art finds itself in (pop-socialist-realist Mao/Coca-Cola paintings, anyone?) to a global market where the emphasis is on innovative work, no matter where it’s from.
Situated on Yongjia Lu just off Shaanxi Nan Lu (for now, at least; construction of a block-busting “music park” and amphitheater threatens to engulf the remaining stores on Yongjia), Art Labor is one of a number of French Concession art galleries that make for a pleasant neighborhood afternoon art walk—the up-and-coming OV Gallery on Shaoxing Lu and the Shanghai branch of New York’s top-shelf James Cohan Gallery being particularly notable examples of other galleries outside of the well-known Moganshan Lu gallery row.