Minsheng Art Museum presents Roxy, the first solo exhibition in China of internationally exhibited Dutch artist Gabriel Lester. Born in Amsterdam in 1972 and presently based in Amsterdam and Shanghai, Lester has been producing works since the mid-1990s that are informed by lexica of cinematography and architecture, and mediate the perception of the world that is constantly re-shaped by new technology and mass media.
Roxy draws its title and inspiration from American theatrical impresario and entrepreneur Samuel Lionel Rothafel, known as “Roxy” (1882–1936), and his legendary Roxy Theatre. Roxy has become synonymous with theatre, cinema, and numerous international namesake venues, which enabled its infiltration into a broader culture sphere. In his Roxy, Gabriel Lester was inspired by the innovative spirits and eclecticism embodied in Roxy stories that he found while researching 1920s silent films. Lester’s defining works, produced between the late 1990s and present, focus on reinventing the fundamental grammar and rhetoric that constitute the cinema and narrative forms.
Located in the first gallery is How To Act (1999), a multimedia installation that Lester produced during his early attempts to probe possibilities of cinematography. The work is composed of an empty stage bathed in alternating stage lights that are computer-programmed and synchronized with sound and music edited by the artist. This minimalistic and atmospheric light installation is deprived of any key element of theatre, such as actors and props, and instead the theatre is transformed into a cinema where the stage becomes a wide screen and a story unfolds with mystery and suspense.
On view in the neighboring gallery is Turn of the Events (2012), an installation developed from his celebrated works as The Past Catching up with the Present (2009). The work consists of a conveyor belt carrying numerous sculpted models, shadows of which are projected onto the four enclosed walls by surrounding lights. As the artist attempts to explore the complexity and subtlety of time and space, the ancient form of shadow play has been translated into a contemporary multichannel animation with parallel narratives. With the belt rolling and shadows growing and fading, the piece addresses a range of subjects that have been central to Lester’s art, including the history of the human civilization, the environment, and urbanism.
For Roxy, Lester created a site-specific installation based on the sculpture Melancholia in Arcadia, which the artist premiered for SALT in Istanbul in 2011. Melancholia in Arcadia was conceived by the artist as a three-dimensional experiment with the cinematic technique—in its case, the freeze-frame—and continued into his further exploration, for instance in his recent architectural sculpture in dOCUMENTA (13), which visualizes the cinematic cross-edit. The presentation in Shanghai showcases an array of lace curtains caught in a mind-bending moment of being blown up by a breeze from the locked windows in the museum’s passageway.
Recently with two projects included in dOCUMENTA (13), Gabriel Lester has exhibited extensively and internationally at major institutions and biennales, among many others, Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Performa 09, New York; Artists Space, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Busan Biennial, Busan; Baltic Triennal; MoMA PS1, New York; Witte de With, Rotterdam; Rijksakademie, Amsterdam; and World Expo, Hannover. Major museum collections include: Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Stedelijk Museum, Museum De Paviljoens, Fondation Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Rabobank Art Collection, and 21CMuseum.
Gabriel Lester: Roxy is made possible by LEO XU PROJECTS Shanghai, the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Shanghai and the Chongbang Group.