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What Goes Around Goes Around – New Works by Yi Kai

Exhibition details

Opening / Event Date:
7 November, 2015
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Closing / End Date:
2 December, 2015
Event Category:

2 November – 2 December 2015

Champagne reception: 7 November Saturday, 4-6pm

Gallery talk: “Interior and Exterior Landscape in a Global World”

by artist Yi Kai and David Pagel, Art Critic for the LA Times and Lifetime Professor at Claremont Graduate University, California

Starts at 4:30pm

Catalogue available

“What Goes Around Goes Around” aims to capture that dynamic [between serial painting and non-serial painting], presenting paintings from nine separate series intermixed with nine works that break free of these series’ defining parameters. As a whole, this mixture of distinct, potentially incompatible approaches allows Yi Kai to meditate more deeply on his great subject: the relationship between individuals and crowds – the one and the many – particularly as that relationship is shaped by modern technologies of telecommunication, namely the ubiquitous digital devices people seem to be permanently plugged into, both as a way to stay connected to others, but also as a means for losing ourselves amidst a superabundance of distractions that often diminish our capacity – and inclination – to listen to the inner rhythms of things, especially ourselves.”

David Pagel

Professor of Art Theory and History at Claremont Graduate University


Alisan Fine Arts is pleased to present What Goes Around Goes Around, a solo exhibition of new works by the Chinese-American artist Yi Kai (b. 1955). A play on the words “what goes around goes around” this exhibition examines the venerated karmic cycle, suggesting a lack of culpability in today’s society, and that perhaps life’s accounts will never be quite so balanced. Yi Kai suggests that our envisioning of a society established around the philosophy that ‘you reap what you sow’ is perhaps imprecise. On the contrary this exhibition acknowledges that art is created not because of a return on investment or payment, because there is no guarantee whatsoever that art engenders positive or negative responses. For Yi Kai, this body of work represents a way in which to scrutinize the relationship between individuals and crowds, and especially how these connections are informed by modern telecommunication.

On display are works from his travelling exhibition, which were first displayed at Claremont Graduate University in the United States and then at the 53 Art Museum in Guangzhou. The series Golden Human and Circuit World series perhaps best conveys the artist’s examination of the relationship between individuals and crowds. Both show people floating about constructed and misty landscapes pursing that they need or desire. The top centre of Pray with Circuit World #2 shows a red figure kneeling with its arms stretched out, head raised, capturing the hopeful optimism expressed by the interactions between figures in both series. The ambiguity between figures, the landscape and thoughts are portrayed in the circuit world, highlighting the connection between people and technological networks.

About the artist

Born in 1955 Changsha, China, Yi Kai showed an affinity for art and drawing at an early age. However in 1970, at the age of 15 he was drafted into the People’s Army at the height of the Cultural Revolution, and spent nine years building railways in the countryside and creating art propaganda for the People’s Republic of China. In 1979 he was chosen as one of 35 from 4000 applicants to attend the Art Institute of the Army of China in Beijing earning B.F.A in traditional Chinese painting. During the late 1970s and early 1980s as China opened to the West, he became exposed to Western culture, particularly American culture. In 1985, Yi Kai attained his Masters of Fine Arts from the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing. Shortly afterwards, in the summer of 1989, along with thousands of other students, Yi Kai participated in the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement. Horrified by the aftermath and apathetic about China’s future, he quickly arranged with the assistance of the Midwest China Centre in Minneapolis, Minnesota to immigrate to the United States. During the last twenty years Yi Kai’s art has transitioned from his artistic education in China to abstract and colourful works that reflect the influence of American culture and expression that inform his current direction. His work combines symbolism from Chinese calligraphy with Western learning. For example his work from the 90s and early 2000s combined icons such as the American flag and map with images of yin and yang, and other Eastern symbols. In one regard his work is a reaction to standard academic art education in China, and that in abstraction liberation, individuality and self-expression is found. Presently he lives in Southern California, and continues to explore the effects of American culture on Chinese society.

Alisan Fine Arts first began exhibiting Yi Kai’s works in 1993. His works have been collected by the Minnesota Museum of American Arts, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis; SAP American, Philadelphia; Museum of Fu Tan Po, Osaka; Beijing Art Institute, Beijing; and Hang Seng Bank, Hong Kong to name a few.


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