Yue Minjun has roped and harnessed the age-old power of the icon. In his paintings and sculptures, as in Wild Laugh (GJ117), his work for Swatch, Yue seizes attention with arresting images of frozen, mask-like laughter. The dial displays four of the artist’s trademark laughing, disembodied faces at hours 3, 6, 9 and 12. The blue plastic strap of this clever piece is spangled with red stars, and the dial’s hour and minute hands take up the flag-blue from the strap. Dripping with irony, this caustic work presents and criticizes a perceived uniformity and lack of originality, itself walking the taut tightrope between the two with gravity-defying poise.
Yue Minjun is a contemporary artist who lives and works in Beijing. An exponent of so-called “cynical realism”, his instantly recognizable large-scale oil paintings often feature himself in different settings, frozen in laughter. The signature laughing figures also appear in his sculptures, watercolours and prints. One of the most popular of Chinese artists working today, Yue’s work has been featured at prestigious venues in Beijing, Bern, Venice, Shanghai and Vancouver, where a characteristic group of giant bronzes, A-maze-ing Laughter, was installed in a park.