The Delaware Contemporary presents HALF : HALF by Willie Yao, the first exhibition of the Draper Experiment series. HALF : HALF debuts ten site-specific pieces of paintings, video, and other media installations that explore Yao’s discovery of his own identity and lifestyle as an urban citizen. Figurative and deeply individualistic, Yao invites the observer to ask questions about their own dynamic identity, psychology, and life experiences.
American Artist, Glenn Ligon once said, “The ‘one’ that I am is composed of narratives that overlap, run parallel to, and often contradict one another.” This statement on identity from Yourself in the World: Selected Writings and Interviews perfectly explains the exhibition title, HALF : HALF. Having lived in Shanghai, Beijing, and New York City as a Chinese contemporary artist, Yao has in-depth and unique urban experiences. In each city, Yao immerses himself into the local community with eagerness and readiness, even with all the language and so-called cultural “barriers.”
To demonstrate his internal “half,” the largest artwork in the exhibition, Man-09152017, reveals Willie’s internal transformation from his iconic graffiti illustration art style into simple compositions with a more confident aesthetic. In his previous practice, Yao drew lines to form color blocks, leaving specks in the “in-between” spaces to evoke mystery, like stars in the dark night sky.
To portray his external “half,” Yao invited friends, peers, his ex-husband, and strangers to collaborate on the artistic process, completing the narrative of HALF : HALF. The co-creators in this exhibition include, No. 223, one of the most popular photographers in China who focuses on intimate relationships, and KidK, Chief Editor of the Chinese street fashion hype magazine, YOHO!. By including these collaborators, Yao positions his identity to a broader context of lifestyle elements, such as the relationship between pop art and contemporary art and how one thinks and lives as the driving force between consumerism and pop culture.
A mini-documentary based on the creative process of HALF : HALF showcasing the Yao’s challenges and inspirations accompanies this exhibition.
Willie Yao was born in Shanghai and now resides in New York. Yao entered the media and marketing industry where he developed his painting and design skills, serving as the illustrator for GQ, Bazaar, Modern Weekly, and other media outlets in China. In 2013, Willie relocated to New York where he was able to truly define his own artistic vision establishing his distinctive and recognizable graffiti style. His vivid color scheme and line work evoke the compositions of notable contemporary artists Keith Haring, Julian Schnabel, and Jean Michel Basquiat. Yao has had exhibitions and worked in Shanghai, Beijing, and New York. Yao is now working as a Creative-in-Residence at The Delaware Contemporary. The overall scope of work is in the capacity of a visual artist, guest curator, press and media relations agent, and Chinese communication and cultural specialist.