X Museum is delighted to present American artist Alex Gardner’s first solo exhibition in China. The exhibition is titled ‘Good Luck’, and is on view from December 17, 2023, to February 25, 2024 in Gallery 3-5 at X Museum in Beijing. The exhibition includes fifteen artworks by Gardner over the past six years, from 2017 to the present. ‘Good Luck’ features a wide range of anonymous figures depicted by Gardner through various situational and atmospheric-making techniques, exploring cultural and political identities beyond race, as well as tensions within intimate relationships. ‘Good Luck’ is a commonly used and even universal phrase that can be found in many cultural contexts. Expressive and wisecracking in nature, ‘Good Luck’ can denote a variety of literal and metaphorical meanings. Apart from the word’s common use to express encouragement, it oftentimes embodies opposite connotations that may be deemed opportunistic, indifferent, speculative, and agnostic. This slippery phrase captures optimism and condescension, reflecting our high hopes and despair living in contemporary society.
The unique style of Gardner’s paintings is characterised by the stark contrast between dark, smooth skin and light-shaded clothing, the minimalist composition in both imagery and character representation, and the aesthetics of relations revealed through details of the body. Gardner uses acrylic on canvas or linen. The entwined bodies in his works convey an initial sense of coldness and decisiveness, and then caring hands, gentle embraces, and smooth caresses become equally evident. Gardner draws inspiration from real-life events and scenarios – the figures portrayed possess full and rounded bodies, delicately protruding joints, slender bare feet in mysterious and loose postures…yet these emotionally charged figures are not granted any facial features. The artist’s omission of the face skips references to specific ethnicities and individuals, further highlighting the universal human experience. The silhouettes of men and women in Gardner’s paintings are immersed in a soft and ambiguous atmosphere, simultaneously caught in conflicts of anxiety and confusion, and these moments of vulnerability belong to everyone.
What truly unfolds in each artwork is mysterious yet familiar, perhaps speaking to the ever-changing dynamics of interpersonal relationships. The artist’s works are imbued with a cinematic touch—viewers are spectating from a fixed perspective, carefully observing the relationships between Others. Observing the rejected individualism and how human reality is understood as an “ensemble of social relations”. Gardner creates nebulous surroundings with dim hues in his recent works, the bodies are outlined by flickering glimmers, and skin colours are further rendered opaque. Perhaps what truly matters is not where we are or with whom we are sharing the moments, but the emotions that we are open to perceive and embrace, as well as the anxiety and apprehension that may lurk beneath the veneer of beauty and serenity. The titles of Gardner’s paintings are often playful and ironic, containing carefully crafted phrases that sometimes defy interpretation, and other times (mis)leading or twisting interpretation. These qualities of humour and comedy reveal the artist’s approach to reconciling endurance and contemporary dilemmas.
In Gardner’s works, there is no clear appropriation of images and symbols that exist in specific cultural systems. Instead, they repeatedly return to an universal human experience. This seems to be a form of resistance and decomposition to the very system on which contemporary art production relies. But it cannot be denied that these vivid scenes continuously echo our contemporary experiences and personal memories, at some time, somewhere, and with someone.
About the Artist
Alex Gardner (b. 1987, Los Angeles, CA) lives and works in Long Beach, CA. The artist received his BFA from California State University in Long Beach in 2011. Solo exhibitions include Long Beach Museum of Art (Long Beach, CA), Loyal (Stockholm), Koenig (Berlin), The Hole (New York), SCAD Museum of Art (Savannah, GA), New Image Art Gallery (Los Angeles). His work is included in the public collections of Museo Jumex (Mexico City), Institute of Contemporary Art Miami (Miami) and X Museum (Beijing).
Alex Gardner is a figure painter working in acrylic to make intense and memorable scenes. His entangled ink-black bodies are draped with dramatically folding white cotton separates and posed in pastel environments where the reflections of color produce subtle gradients and thoughtful tonal shifts. In these paintings the artist charges the familiar with poignancy, highlights the details as important, and paints figures that all genders and races could see themselves in. Mimicking snippets of classical painting—from an El Greco hand to a Pietà carry, a crucifixion foot, a Michelangelo muscle group—he is not just inserting his contemporary identity into art history, but also opening up these art historical perspectives for all viewers to connect with.
About The Artists
About The Curators