Hong Hao’s “AS IT IS”
              Pauline J. Yao
              There is something immensely gratifying about seeing an artist produce a roomful of artworks out of meticulously collected miscellaneous receipts, letters, forms, and paper ephemera from daily life. Perhaps this is due to the familiarity of the materials, or the fact that most of us take comfort in knowing that we lack the pathological tendencies that have led to such scrupulously hoarding, selecting, and organizing of all those original items in the first place. In Hong Hao’s latest undertaking “As It Is,” the obsessive impulse towards collecting is tempered by yet another—the urge to copy. Along with collecting, Hong has undertaken the immense task of tracing each miniscule word and letter, stroke by stroke in pencil on the reverse side of the paper. Copying is familiar territory for the artist, earlier bodies of works having involved traced magazine pages onto blank pieces of paper and self-produced fake biennial catalogues; one can see the links also to an earlier work called Invitation (1997), in which he and co-collaborator Yan Lei famously mimicked a documenta X invitation letter and sent it around to Chinese artists under false pretenses. But if those works edge towards the satirical, “As It Is” adheres to a …

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