Zhou Yilun: Ornament and Crime

Los Angeles

January 12 – February 17, 2019

Press Release

In today’s world, does one have a practical evolutionary advantage over his competition if he can toss a ball through a hoop from great distance with accuracy? If he can kick a ball into a net while others try to stop him? Hit a tiny ball in a tiny hole with a tiny stick? As technology progresses and the human body becomes increasingly obsolete, physical feats of coordination, strength, and agility are less necessary for survival, and more decorative ornaments that harken back to an archaic economy when physical superiority could be directly translated into evolutionary capital. Still, these are among the few traits that translate seamlessly from culture-to-culture across the globe.


“Ornament and Crime,” the 1910 lecture by Adolf Loos, famously equates the post-construction adornment of objects to villainy. Ornamentation, to Loos, is an afterthought, diverting attention from the inherent beauty of an object’s design and function; it is a superficial perversion of said object’s structural logic, obscuring the utilitarian dignity of the base materials of construction. He believed that the goal of creation should not be to conceal or disguise the bones upon which a structure is built, but to celebrate and cast light upon their socio-cultural necessity. 


Ornament and crime are not synonymous to Zhou Yilun, however. His influences begin with the Western, Judeo-Christian canons he studied and was trained to emulate in school, but skew more heavily to the laborers he saw building, tearing-down, painting, and repainting the structures in the city surrounding him, and the American basketball players, hip-hop stars, and black celebrities he grew up mythologizing and imitating.  Zhou lifts and distorts techniques inherited from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Romantic eras, revisiting, perverting, and parodying their ideas for the new globalist regime. This is Raphael going Apeshit with The Carters, Goya crossing-over Allen Iverson, Delacroix sipping Cristal and smoking blunts with Weezy, all broadcast to the far east over WeChat.


Each of his artworks is formed from the same bricolage of identity—the sum of stretcher, wood, and canvases painted, deconstructed, and constructed again. Images of basketball heroes become deities, which in turn become the scaffolding and skin of his painted sculptures and often stretcherless paintings. Zhou’s practice is alive with Chinese bones and Western sinew and flesh, torn down and built back up with the same materials again and again, so that the elements that once existed as ornament are now integral to the identity and essence of each artwork itself. His works are impossible monuments to the necessarily unnecessary, yet beautiful feats of the human machine. The only crime is existence itself, and it is one to be celebrated.


Zhou Yilun was born in 1983 in Hangzhou, China. He graduated in 2006 from the oil painting department at China Academy of Art. He currently lives and works in Hangzhou.

在今天的世界里, 如果一个人能在远距离精准地把球投进球篮里,或者排除重重阻扰把球踢进球门,或者用一根细棍把一个小小的球打进一个小小的洞里,是不是就比对手有如山压卵之优势?在科技发展的同时,人类的身体反而急剧退化。协调、力度和灵活的体质已经不是生存的必然条件了。生理上的优越反而变成点缀,被直接转化成经济体制中的资本。这个现象在全球各个文化里已经是很普遍了。


Adolf Loos在他1910年题为“装饰于罪恶”的著名演讲里,把构造完成后的物质装饰等同于犯罪。装潢对Loos来讲是画蛇添足,分散了对原本的设计和功能的注意力,肤浅地歪曲了结构本身的逻辑,模糊了材料功能的尊严。他认为创作的目的不是掩盖和遮蔽结构的本体,而是庆祝和突出其中的社会文化的必要性。


然而“装饰于罪恶”并不是周轶伦作品的同义词。虽然他的启蒙来自于上学期间模仿西方、以犹太和基督艺术家为主的经典的训练,但他更关注日常生活中劳动者搭建、拆建、刷颜料、改颜色的创作,以及他从小就崇拜和模仿的美国篮球运动员、嘻哈艺人、黑人明星。周轶伦同时借用和瓦解文艺复兴、巴洛克、浪漫主义时期的技法来作为自己反思、颠覆和嘲弄当下全球化体系的手段。这就好比是拉斐尔联手碧昂丝、Jay-Z的夫妻组合一起癫狂,戈雅摇身一变成为篮球明星Allen Iverson,德拉克洛瓦跟Weezy一起喝昂贵香槟抽大麻。这一幕幕都通过微信直播。