WhiteBox presents

No Head No Heart


Press Release
August 10, 2016

New York City – Shen Jingdong + Jon Tsoi : No Head No Heart is a New York debut-collaboration of two Chinese contemporary artists who came of age in the 1980s, one Beijing-based, the other a New Yorker.

The exhibition addresses aspects of an ongoing, alarming Sino-American military build-up, seen through the lens of performance art, painting, and public interactive art. The artworks evoke the unsettling figure of the “hero”, patent in the invincible uniformed figure of the Red Army soldier inscribed in both artists’ childhood memories.

In the words of Eric Shiner, “Shen Jingdong converts Communist icons in his paintings and sculptures in an unprecedented way, creating sumptuous works that cunningly turn these images of power into candy-colored and glistening figures that are more likely to be found on a toy shop’s shelves than marching through Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.”

Shen witnessed and was partly influenced by the notorious and subversive ’85 Art New Wave’ movement from Nanjing, that advocated a rationalistic approach to artmaking, in opposition to the academic, social-realist painting of the times. While his work has one foot in the supposed glory of the past, the other foot is firmly set in the ambiguous but relentless narrative of present day China. Aesthetically influenced by Western Pop Art, Shen deems the Chinese soldier a friendly-looking instrument to nonetheless be reckoned with. And he does so with exactitude.

By contrast, Jon Tsoi’s response to militarism is expressed through the prism of Taoism and its notions of chance, as well as via abstract expressionist principles that likewise reflect randomness and unpredictability. Tsoi’s performative painting is not only created blindfolded, but is resurrected, repaired, and restored by a blindfolded audience. In such engagements, Mr. Tsoi also references the original concept of Lucio Fontana, ‘concetto spatiale’—slashing the membrane of two dimensionality canvasses in order to highlight the ‘third space’ behind the picture—a method tilled by the legendary Japanese expressionist group Gutai Art Association, and advances it dramatically.

Together in this project, Shen and Tsoi generously allow for their work to hybridize into a risky, but poignant counterpoint. The sumptuous, slick, perfectly controlled soldiers of Shen Jingdong confront the ignominious slashings of Jon Tsoi’s sharp knives, and subsequent re-weaving. The result may remain a mystery as deep and perplexing as the history of China itself.

Shen Jingdong was born in 1965 and currently lives and works in Beijing. After graduating from the Printmaking Department of Nanjing Art College in 1984, he continued to pursue and complete his studies at the Department of Fine Arts in the Nanjing Academy of Art in 1991. After, Shen served 17 years in the battlefront Art Troupe of the Political Department of Nanjing Military Region. His military background inspired his artistic style –iconic, cartoon style military portraits. His works continuously address the subject of the hero and pop art in porcelain figurines and paintings. His work has been exhibited widely in the United States, Europe and China. Recent shows have included Censure at the Galerie DOCK SUD in France in 2015, France-Chine 50 (la Chine à l’honneur) at the Art Paris – Art Fair in France in 2014, a group exhibition East/west: Visually Speaking in the United States in 2010/2012. His work is included in the collections of the Frost Art Museum and the Paul & Lulu Hilliard University Art Gallery.

Jon Tsoi was born in 1958 in Sichuan province, China. After moving to the United States in 1979, he attended art classes at Montclair State University NJ, and at the Art Students League of New York in the early 1980s. Tsoi currently lives in Connecticut and has exhibited his work in various art galleries in New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and China. As a certified medical doctor in acupuncture and a contemporary artist, Tsoi consciously integrates in his healing and art making. Recent exhibitions have included ChangJiang Contemporary Art Museum in China in 2016, and Blindfold Art Performance at WhiteBox in New York in 2016.


Presented by WhiteBox

The programs of WhiteBox are made possible in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council for the Arts

NYSCA   Department of Cultural Affairs NYC

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