Liu Xiaodong, the usually itinerant Chinese painter, has been situated in New York City under lockdown since the middle of February, unable to travel back to his home in Beijing. From a small New York apartment, the artist has made a series of watercolour paintings documenting the changing landscape of the city over the past four months.
A keen observer of modern life, Liu Xiaodong has been addressing radical shifts in society for over three decades, commenting on this emerging world through his work, in the manner of a contemporary history painter. The content of Liu Xiaodong’s paintings is never transitory; his identified subject matter transpires as in-depth, complex artistic and social projects, be it documenting the life of transsexuals in Singapore (2001) or transgender and transnational artists in Berlin (2018), the forced relocation and supposed progress of Three Gorges Project in China (2003) or the complexities of multicultural life in his London series, Half Street (2013).
This new body of work serves as a record of this landmark moment in history: first recording the picturesque, poignant scenes of Spring in New York under the pandemic — with empty children’s playgrounds, deserted streets, blossoms falling from the trees, and portraits of his wife and daughter — to the subsequent crowds and zeal of the Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the city, and many others in recent weeks.
The artist kept a written diary alongside the visual chronicle of his experiences.