select works by Xiao Tse. images courtesy of the artist

Photography by Michelle Horn and Michael Sullivan

install shots by Xiao Tse

THIS IS NOT THE STUDIO is thrilled to be hosting Xiao Tse’s first solo exhibition and very grateful to be working in collaboration with High Concept Labs (HCL) on the third installment of our nomadic series, On The Lam. For those of you unfamiliar, HCL is primarily a residency program, one that favors process over product. It is in this approach that HCL is quickly becoming a vital artery in the Chicago art community. We’re not surprised. From the moment the STUDIO crew walked into HCL we were greeted with open arms and smiling faces. The air was filled with budding collaborations and everyone seemed not only happy to be there, but warm, invited, and inviting. This is just the kind of environment we’re all hoping to proliferate in what has otherwise become a market-driven carnival of an art world.  Essentially, it was in this space we felt we had found our post-modern Chicago brethren. What Ms. Molly Feingold is running over here is a kind of embrace that we’ve never before encountered – major kudos to Kevin Simmons, executive Director – and many million thanks to Molly for keeping this dream alive, well, and organized.

We felt Xiao’s work would exhibit best here, on the one hand, because the space is flat-out gorgeous: open, big, and raw. There’s something to be said for a warehouse-like garage in the tradition of off white walls and enough space to make an intimate retrospective. On the other hand, Xiao’s work is heavily process-based, and brings to heart and mind the kind of inherent depth and integrity of purpose that HCL reminds in us. Every detail is important here, as it is with Xiao, and it is of absolute importance to us that the environment properly confer to the objects it houses.

The STUDIO met Xiao last year via Leonardo Kaplan, who at the time occupied a studio space next door to Xiao. The two of them would to stay up all hours of the night working, talking work.  Leo kept mentioning his neighbor Xiao this and that, imploring us to stop by and say hey. As long as it took us to finally knock on his door, we were conversely even more quickly convinced. All we had to see were a couple sketches and chat for a bit before we were, to say the least, completely captivated. Xiao’s dedication to the work itself, at times to the point where I feel he is nearly disregarding every conceptual reality I might have known to be true, is nearly unmatched in any living artist I’ve ever encountered. The result is something that is so beyond the concept that it literally defines the concept itself – I really can’t stress the significance of that enough.

Since I encountered Xiao’s recent work I’ve been searching day and night for the right words to describe. Of course, all Xiao needed was one sentence:

The series stems from a working process that establishes the condition for the work to reveal itself in a way that defines traces of forms that are unrepresentable. 

A dense sentence, yes. But that really might be all one needs to say, and we do feel the work speaks for itself. Wasn’t it Derrida who said he’d only read a couple books in his life, but he read them really, really well? We’re all so inundated with bullshit art language and art product here, which has, of course, succeeded in polarizing and isolating its audience, something that’s made the contemporary dialogue seem inaccessible. In this vein, it is no wonder the art industry’s commodities are bought and controlled by a few and shared by even fewer. It’s The Emperor’s New Clothes over and over again.

In essence, what I’m trying to say is that Xiao’s work extends beyond that which I heretofore have understood work to extend to.  It speaks to a part of me that I generally can only recognize in the work of the masters – something driven, deeply worked but not overworked, something sincere, honest, cosmic, universal.  The result of a well trained eye, hand, and knowledge of history coupled with the kind of passion that borders on obsession. The work breathes, and pulses, and moves when you aren’t looking. It moves when you are looking.  Case in point is the 11 foot long piece displayed for you tonight, a culmination of over 20 pounds of pastel and ink created over a period in excess of 8 months. 

But of course that’s not to say the only thing we can do about it is gush. On an objective level,Xiao is an interdisciplinary artist who works in painting, drawing, photography and sculpture.  His works are process based, and illuminate an implicit tension between control and its relinquishment. This is evident in both his usage and application of medium as well as his overtly aesthetic accessibility. His voice is consistent and clear throughout starkly opposing media.

I hope you can find even an bit of the satisfaction and awe I feel when I admire this body of work. Xiao Tse is the real deal in that he actually needs to make work – this is rare. Know you’ll be seeing much more of him in the future.

Our very special thanks for this exhibition go out to Molly Feingold, Greg Pilon, Danny, Perry Castilino, Doug Fogelson, Peter V, Matthew Frantz, and Michael Sullivan.


Claire Molek