Born in Beijing, China, Yin Xiuzhen makes site-specific installations and sculptures. Yin uses found objects of clothing and domestic items to create works that preserve personal memories.
Trained in oil painting at Capital Normal University in Beijing, Yin was influenced by the 1980s New Wave movement in China and its experimental practices of conceptual art which rejected the social realism of the Cultural Revolution. Combining sculpture, installation, and performance art in her 1995 “Washing the River,” she had herself and others washing ice which came from polluted river water.
For her ongoing “Portable City” series, Yin created miniature fabric versions of city skylines, placed in suitcases, to explore the memories that used clothing has for us. In 1996, she made “Ruined City,” an installation made from Beijing roof tiles, to mourn what was lost because of China’s rapid modernization,
Her 1997 “Transformation” was an installation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It consisted of black & white photographs mounted on tiles. This work incorporated 108 roof tiles, collected from the demolition sites of traditional houses in Beijing before they were replaced by new, modern buildings. Each tile had a black and white photograph, taken at its collection site, and attached to it by cement. Yin was memorializing the rubble that has colored the streets of Beijing since the 1990s. Because of the demolition of thousands of traditional courtyard homes and the destruction of historical neighborhoods scores of local families have been displaced. Yin allows the Beijing wreckage to tell its own story. When you bring the rubble directly into the works, she feels that these materials speak for themselves as they show traces of life as it once was.
Her 2007 “Collective Subconscious” is an installation at the Pace Gallery of a 1990s Chinese mini-bus. Her 2016-2017 “Trojan” is a nearly nineteen-foot-tall sculpture of a woman – perhaps a giant or a youthful avatar – sitting bent over in an airplane seat, suspended in midair. The woman is braced for turbulence or an emergency landing. The piece is made from a steel frame and used clothing. While the seated woman is stylized figuration, the back of the piece and its internal structure is pure abstraction. Her second major installation in this show was a field of dried weeds and grasses, growing out of a bed of concrete.
With her husband, artist Song Dong, she has installed the latest iteration of their collaborative project, “The Way of the Chopsticks.” While Song uses traditional architectural details, Yin uses clothing as they explore the complexities of their lives. “I don’t think art is about making objects. It’s more about the process . . . It’s an attitude toward life.”
Yin’s work has been shown in Biennales in Venice, Sao Paulo, and South Korea. She has exhibited in Moscow, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, and Beijing. In the United States, her work has been shown in Los Angeles at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Red Cat and in New York at the Museum of Modern Art.