“Pixy Liao: Venus As A Boy” marks the first solo exhibition of Shanghai-born Brooklyn-based young female artist Pixy Yijun Liao with the gallery, running from September 24th through October 25th, 2016. Having studied photography at University of Memphis and lived in the States for over a decade, Liao is highly influenced by the style of New American Color Photography in her practices, yet spinning off from the critique of “the American dream” to focus on the contemporary lives of Asian immigrants in the western society, presenting portraits and relationship hierarchies of the youth and the minorities with a rare observational wit.
The title of the exhibition is taken from one of the greatest hits of Icelandic musician, singer, and actress Björk Gumundsdottir, in which she questions masculine and feminine gender identities as socially constructed and breaks down the popular conceptions of gender binaries. Sharing a similar objection against the conventional assumptions of gender roles, Pixy Liao uses language of contemporary American photography of deadpan portraits, seemingly unmemorable objects, and staged scenes in her photographic practices to challenge the preconceived notions about characteristics and behaviors of different genders in heterosexual relationships in the Asian American society, throwing tradition out the window in an often humorous effect.
Born and raised in Shanghai, Liao grew up in the reform era, during which the influx and popularity of foreign cultural and commercial products, such as rock music, new wave films, television dramas, advertisements, and makeups and clothing, called for realization and reconstruction of women’s identity. Coming to maturity in such a transition period, Liao was exposed to new potentialities for women in both domestic and public spheres. After coming to US, an environment away from home and further apart from traditional Chinese social norms, Liao began her explorations for alternative possibilities of male/female roles in a relationship. She invested ten years with her real life partner Moro Magario, who is five years younger than her, in a performative conspiracy of acting out the interpretations and understandings of relationship hierarchies, gender codes, and sexualities within young Asian migrants’ families.
The exhibition opens with this experimental endeavor named “Experimental Relationship”, an ongoing project documenting Liao and her partner’s rehearsing of different situations within a heterosexual relationship. In “Photographer and Her Muse”, Liao stands with a domineering attitude holding the remote camera control, creating a sharp contrast to Moro who is lying casually in the chair behind. By reversing the power dynamics and demonstrate woman as the more potent player, the protector, mentor, and even controller, Liao deconstructs familiar gender roles and denies women to have definite material dimensions. The interplay between Liao and Moro demonstrates expressions of love, affection, and desire in a charming, delightful, and sometimes absurd manner. In “Hang In There”, Liao uses her boyfriend in a sculptural way as material and hangs him onto a coat hanger. Her conceptually sharp and deliberately lo-fi construction of the image reveals fluid dynamics between a man and a woman, presenting a multi-faceted and multidirectional relationship of a young Asian couple in the contemporary society.
The comical effect continues in the series “For Your Eyes Only”, which follows the genre of practical advertisement or product photography. Zooming at objects of desire, the photographs combine daily life and performance with a naughty attitude–a red nail-polished hand squeezing a phallic-shaped object on a red ping-pong paddle, two hands stacking on one another holding a golden streamline-designed mouse, a profile picture of Moro wearing a pair of fogged glasses, an enlarged image of a pair of Toddland’s men’s underwear in the illustrated design of a couple running and holding hands–Liao’s camera captures the close-up physical traits of her and her boyfriend interacting with various daily objects with a serious dose of humor and portrays how the world is experienced by these young Asian immigrants.
On view on the top floor gallery is a staged room of an imaginary girl indulged in love. Featuring an indie lo-fi electro soundtrack by the duo music act PIMO (founded by Liao and Moro), the video “Walking With My Man” documents Liao’s performance of carrying a man-shaped cotton-filled bag running around New York city. Liao was dressed in high school sports uniform remindful of the girls from the celebrated Japanese TV series “Moero! Attack” that was wildly popular with Chinese audiences in the 80s. Consolidating elements of desire, admiration, obsession, and fascination from different cultures all into one work, Liao’s quasi-music video quasi-performance piece unfolds different layers of fetishism and exoticism. The presentation is completed with the carefully folded uniforms displayed in the glass-framed cabinet and the mannequin standing in the corner, thickening the atmosphere of worshiping and fantasizing symbolic of the Asian society in the 80s.
Pixy Liao’s photographs have been exhibited internationally with various institutions and museums. Selected group exhibitions include “Bagism”, Chi K11 Art Museum, Shanghai (2016); “WE CHAT–A Dialogue in Contemporary Chinese Art” curated by Barbara Pollack and Asia Society Texas Centre, Huston and Wesleyan University’s Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Middletown (2016); “The Real Thing”, Flowers Gallery, New York (2016); “EVIDENCE”, FORMAT Festival, Derby (2015); “Double Vision” curated by Boyi Feng, He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen (2014); “Span of Vision” from VT Gallery, Taipei (2012), etc,. Her recent solo exhibitions include “Some Words Are Just Between Us”, First Draft Gallery, Sydney (2016); “Experimental Relationship”, Circuitous Succession Gallery, Memphis (2015); “Let’s Make Love”, Camera Club of New York, New York (2013); “Memphis, Tennessee”, Chinese America Art Council, New York (2011); “Experimental Relationship”, Adam Shaw Gallery, Memphis (2008). Pixy Liao is a recipient of NYFA Fellowship in photography, En Foco’s New Works Fellowship and LensCulture Exposure Awards, etc,. She has done artist residencies at Pioneer Works, Light Works, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Centre for Photography at Woodstock, and Camera Club of New York.
Pixy Liao now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
About the exhibition
Dates: September 24th through October 25th, 2016
Opening reception: Saturday, September 24th, 6-8pm
Venue: Leo Xu Projects
Courtesy of the artist and Leo Xu Projects, for further information please visit http://leoxuprojects.com.