when held properly,
March 31 - May 14, 2023
Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York City
Huidi Xiang's debut solo exhibition, aptly titled when held properly, offers a delightful exploration of video game aesthetics and pop culture references. Drawing inspiration from iconic titles such as Animal Crossing, Super Smash Bros, and Super Mario Bros, Xiang presents a series of colorful and conceptually engaging works that blur the lines between digital and physical realms. At the heart of the exhibition lies a playful homage to Super Mario Bros' infamous Shoe Goomba, as a green boot takes center stage in one of the exhibition's most visually striking pieces. Through Xiang's masterful use of color, texture, and form, the humble shoe is transformed into a vibrant symbol of pop culture iconography, inviting viewers to reflect on the social and cultural significance of video games and their enduring impact on contemporary art. April Z, Tutu's gallery curator, offers a profound and insightful analysis (see below) of the multiple layers of meaning present in the exhibited artworks.
Tutu Gallery announces sculptor Huidi Xiang’s first solo exhibition in New York: when held properly, opening Friday, March 31, 2023, with 6 new sculptures made this year tailored for the gallery’s home base. Charting the journey of her ongoing immigration and introspection on her role as a minority female in late capitalism, Huidi uses a mixture of symbols from video games and popular culture as her language to describe how affective labor metamorphoses into physical and internal harm by the larger system we exist under.
This body of work was initially conceived from Huidi’s preoccupation with Shoe Goomba, a shoe-wearing, mushroom-shaped monster character in Super Mario Bros. A late addition to the game, Shoe Goomba can be defeated by the standard jump move, or, a stealth attack from below which then grants Mario possession of A Goomba’s Shoe (also known as The Shoe), allowing him to safely move through spiked grounds and monsters. Extended to real-life living in New York, putting on a good pair of shoes prompts a mental switch from nesting to facing the outside world, provides comfort on the go, and can even be used to deceive others about the wearer’s socio-economic class.
Huidi Xiang, when held properly, Tutu Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, installation shot (Courtesy of the Artist)
Huidi draws parallels between game simulation, animation, and immigrant assimilation as analogies for many survival strategies around the vicious cycle of personal caretaking, growth, and the eventual weaponization of a person. In power-up take-out, The Shoe, life-sized and spray-painted black, becomes the container for an enlarged, standing plastic knife, a normally frail gadget she cuts takeout food with in between busy work schedules, and, as she jokingly put it, perhaps the most powerful gear readily available for fighting. Such hidden anxiety about a lack of resources in an unfamiliar environment is further signaled by hold my inventory tight and right, a 4’ handmade woodcut board riskily balanced on a silicon banana peel, inspired by the inventory space design in Animal Crossing New Horizons. In order to start building tools which then build furniture and shelters on a deserted island, the player must rely on limited bag space to collect sticks and stones from scratch. A carrier like this, hopefully with a few things already in it, can also be swung to fend for oneself in unforeseen situations.
The multi-use of scarce assets encourages creativity, but also complexes the intention behind every simple act. Leaning against the wall, timbering the dream house embeds a small monitor framed in a shovel, displaying a video collage of Villager (originally a character from Animal Crossing)’s two Movesets in Super Smash Bros. Down special Timber shows the character shoveling to plant a seed, watering it until it becomes a tree, then peculiarly cutting the very tree he had grown in order for it to fall and hit the opponent; final smash Dream Home, he pays a team to build a house around the opponent proceeded by detonating it at the celebration of its completion. The gravity is my best frenemy, a life-sized concrete anvil on a silver chain placed above the mantelpiece, is drawn from props designed for Wile E. Coyote by ACME Corporation in Looney Tunes. A lucky charm to the artist, it enunciates the fanatic mindset that, to be considered worthy, even an instrument to produce weapons must be effective in attacks itself.
Such constant reexamination of straightforward utility, safeguarding merits, and concealed lethality maps an unavoidable disintegration of the singular self. In hare come the glitches, an axe, which can be used to chop wood and warm up the living space, or, to potentially harm domestic partners, merges into the Shoe and turns into the tail of Bugs Bunny, reflecting a disordered amalgamation of worlds, personalities, objects, and functions.
In the flower need no water, a chip-looking white lily in a glass jar pumps water into a basin sourced from Chinatown, which firmly stands on three triangulating concrete shoes, while a small plastic-watering-can-turned-into train loops around the rim. Modeled after Lily of Valley in Animal Crossing New Horizons, this white lily symbolizes the system’s promise of final recognition after one naturalizes by wearing the shoes, learning the language, gathering the resources, avoiding the dangers, making the work, knowing the right people and projecting the power. It is a perpetual motion machine: the water will come from the trophy in the shape of a delicate flower and take care of all things.
April Z, Tutu Gallery
Huidi Xiang (b. 1995. Chengdu, China) is a sculptor currently based in Brooklyn, New York, USA. Huidi received her MFA in Art from Carnegie Mellon University in 2021 and her BA in Architecture and Studio Art from Rice University in 2018. In her practice, Huidi makes sculptural objects, installations, and systems to examine world-making processes and the coexistence of multiple contexts and narratives in late capitalism. She uses her work to cultivate alternative narratives to speculate and investigate the usually invisible working mechanism, rules, and power structure hidden behind pop cultural symbols and scenarios. Huidi’s works have been exhibited internationally, including OCAT Biennale at OCT Art & Design Gallery, Shenzhen, China; KAJE in Brooklyn, NY, USA; Lydian Stater in Long Island City, NY, USA; LATITUDE Gallery in New York, NY, USA; Contemporary Calgary in Calgary, Canada; Hive Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, China; Miller ICA in Pittsburgh, PA, USA, and more. Huidi has also participated in some artist residencies, including NARS Foundation International Residency Program (2022), ACRE Residency Program (2021), the Millay Colony for the Arts (2020), and Project Row Houses Summer Studios (2016). She is currently an AIM fellow at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
LINK: Huidi Xiang
LINK: when held properly, at Tutu Gallery