Opening - Li Songsong @ Pace Gallery, New York

On May 5, the Pace Gallery will open the first solo U.S. exhibition of Chinese painter Li Songsong. The exhibition features eleven new large-scale oil paintings, with works measuring up to seventeen feet wide. Li Songsong’s impasto paintings transform photographs, film stills, and other found images into grids of subtle color.

Drawing from images that address charged moments in recent world history or contentious current events and snapshots that are more personal and idiosyncratic, Li dismembers and reassembles the image into squares of lush paint in tones ranging from pastel to somber, with some brushstrokes cutting through two or more inches of oil paint to reveal other colors hidden below. By removing the image from its original context, he maintains a distance between the content of the image and the final painting. The transformed image —divided analytically into rectangular fragments, reworked with multiple layers of paint, pocked and daubed with unexpected colors—becomes abstract and expressionistic, both obscuring and neutralizing the original content as it explores the imperfection of memory. Li explains that the key to his paintings lies in the formal interpretation of the image, as well as the dissonance between content and style: “It’s like telling a story packed with violence and gore with a huge smile on your face. It’s how the stories are told that attracts you, and that’s the art of it. Everyone knows the story. The important thing is the way that you tell it.”

He approaches each fragment of the grid individually, moving methodically from left-to-right and top-to-bottom and finishing one square before moving on to the next.