Upcoming Art Fair: Spring Break Art Show Los Angeles (Feb 27- March 3)
Curated by Yue Wu
Solo Exhibition of Zhiheng Gong
Yiwei Gallery is pleased to present "Special Project Room” — a series of short-term experimental exhibitions featuring emerging artists and curators.
To kick the series off is Chinese spacial artist Zhiheng Gong’s solo exhibition, “Hardly Soft," Curated by Yue Wu. This exhibition showcases a unique collection of sculptures crafted from steam-bent wood, providing representing the artist's inquiry into resilience and adaptability, reflected in both the material and his personal narratives.
Exhibition Duration: November 18 - 26, 2023
Opening Reception: Saturday, November, 2 - 5 pm
At the heart of “Hardly Soft” lies the art of steam-bending wood, a meticulous technique demanding precision, patience, and the courage to risk scalding. The wood is slowly softened by steam only to be shaped into complex forms, a metaphor of the artist’s transformative journey. As a diasporic artist from Zhejiang, China, now finding a second home in Detroit’s diverse landscape, Gong’s sculptures reflect the complexities of assimilation, the strength found in flexibility, and the beauty of enduring shape.
The Chinese character 輮 (róu), symbolizing a wheel and "soft," originates from an ancient Chinese wood-bending technique and later represents the transformative power of education. In the teachings of the ancient philosopher Xunzi (荀子 Hsün Tzu), “Straight wood is bound by rope to make wheels, and it is the bending that makes it conform.” This wisdom parallels the artist’s own journey of adaptation and growth, akin to the disciplinary process of shaping wood into art. The oxymoron in the title “Hardly Soft” signifies both strength and softness. This juxtaposition underscores the paradoxical nature of hardwood: through the steam bending process, it becomes malleable, and yet its inherent toughness persists. The sculptures remain “hardly soft”—an enduring character.
Each piece of installation in “Hardly Soft” is also a testament to the harmony between natural form and human influence, between the organic and the cultivated. Through the interplay of curves and lines, the artist invites viewers to contemplate the delicate balance of maintaining one’s essence while yielding to the forces of change.
Zhiheng Leo Gong is a Chinese Spatial & 3D Design, Installation Artist, currently based in Detroit. He earned his 3D BFA at the University of Iowa and his 4D Design MFA at Cranbook Academy of Art. Currently, he has been a teaching artist at College for Creative Studies since 2022.
Yue Wu is an independent curator. She received M.A. in Regional Studies East Asia from Harvard University and B.A. in Art History from New York University. She curated exhibitions “Flatland Guerrillas: Unite! Digital Voyagers” and “A Spring Breeze” at China’s largest public contemporary art museum, Power Station of Art Shanghai; she was selected for the prestigious “Emerging Curator Project.”