Tutu Gallery presents its best exhibition in over 3 years of making with artist/researcher/comic/magician Xinan Helen Ran. Behold Very Sweet, a project that playfully explores language, material, and comfort that gather around the theme of intimate joy. Mingling domestic objects with unassociated and overheard conversations in the public sphere, this show reflects the disorienting journey that one goes through from fear to, well, let’s avoid using that corny word* here to keep it sexy.
Conceived site-specific to the home of Tutu and April as a continuation of Xinan’s last solo Future Trash, everyday items including floor cushions, shower curtains, tags, markers, and fragrances are paired with text through embroidery, heat transfer, gluing, drawing, and writing. The exhibition is installed around the living room, the kitchen, and the bathroom, posting as a scavenger hunt backdropped by the accumulation of private life. However, some pieces aren’t covered thoroughly in this account of conceptual reasoning due to the artist’s impulsivity in making such random work and the gallerist’s excitement to see them realized.
The title Very Sweet comes from the bilingual Chinese and English cardboard price signs that street fruit vendors set up around Chinatown. The low prices are boldly written in large digits on the paper cutout along with direct descriptions of 很甜 (very sweet), 好甜 (so sweet), or 包甜 (guaranteed sweetness). Often carried out in casual yet beautiful calligraphy, such signage conveys messages beyond a good deal. To people that can not only read and write, but also appreciate the significance of skilled penmanship, these marks reveal the rich cultural background and complex migratory narrative of the sign maker.
The numbers drive cost-conscious passersby, but the gripping confidence in quality can cause reasonable suspicion and alarm. If you stop your track to get some strawberries, mangoes, or cherries – the fruits are indeed, always very sweet.
– Xinan Helen Ran & April Yueyi Zhu
*love (joy, and gratitude)
Xinan Helen Ran (b. 1994. Inner Mongolia, China) is an artist who specializes in fabric, language, and found objects to construct emotional landscapes. She searches for the point where trauma, nihilism, and humor converge. Xinan has been exhibited internationally at SheinSpace (Hangzhou), Inna Art Space (Hangzhou), Hauser & Wirth (New York), and collaborated on public projects with Clover Nature (Shanghai) and Beam Center (Governors Island, New York). She is a current mentee in NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program (2023) and was a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Arts Center resident (2022), and an Ox-Bow Summer Fellow (2016). Xinan also co-founded Tuft Love @tuft.love, a rug tufting business, and is an art educator and an aspirational set designer for new theaters. Past collaborations include Cannabis! A Viper Vaudeville (2022), The Moonfish and The Knife (2018), Shout Alone Theater Company’s Chasing Light (2015), and assisted productions by Castillo Theater, All Stars Project (2014-2017).
Tutu Gallery is a feline-owned DIY space located in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, founded in July 2019 by Tutu (cat) and her human assistant April Yueyi Zhu. Tutu’s aim is to show art slightly “off the wall”, in the space, and with its friends. Tutu prioritizes immigrants and students with exhibitions and programs.
January 20 – March 4, 2023
6 – 9 PM Friday, January 20, 2023
Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn NY 11206
By appointment only
For more information, please visit
(text & photo courtesy of the artist and Tutu gallery)