Art Show | Gallery Poulsen Presents Theater of the Wor/l/d, Jiannan Wu and William Powhida’s Two-person Exhibition

poster credit: Gallery Poulsen

Gallery Poulsen presents Theater of the Wor/l/d, Jiannan Wu and William Powhida’s two-person exhibition, that brings the artists’ comically subversive visions together for the first time. Through formats of sculpture and wall-mounted reliefs, the artists explore how forms of competition shape contemporary life across different fields of social, cultural, and political activity. The New York-based artists approach figurative language in different ways to create playful and satirical narratives about the often absurd nature of contemporary reality. Together, the artists reflect on and carefully examine the conditions, events, and figures that have shaped their perception of a world spinning rapidly (and possibly out of control) around them.  

Installation view, courtesy of Gallery Poulsen
Installation view, courtesy of Gallery Poulsen

Wu’s unique practice employs compressed spatial volume and atmospheric and linear perspective to create intricately composed and self-contained scenes that freeze memorable moments in time. In his nine pieces for the show, Wu builds a theater of the world; re-staging both personal and public events from the 1990’s to the present across China, Japan, Afghanistan, France, Germany, and Russia. Wu plays with the pictorial conventions and language of figurative painting to create highly-detailed, dynamic reliefs rendered with intense, saturated colors that capture contradictory behaviors, attitudes, and situations that have defined the artist’s world view. 

Powhida expands his practice of translating trompe l’oeil notebook drawings into large-scale sculptural reliefs to include diagrams and sketches. This new body of works examines the paradoxical tensions between the social and political roles of the contemporary artist.  The text-based work uses figurative language to comment on the politics of art including the artist’s own ‘political art’ represented in the form of a salvaged study. The crumpled forms of the artist’s satirical narratives point to the improbability of an individual artist resolving systemic and structural problems, let alone his own thoughts and attitudes about the contradictions of being a political artist.  

Exhibition view, courtesy of Gallery Poulsen

The works in the exhibition sharply render the world as a series of games played and manipulated by social agents including artists, celebrities, politicians, family, and friends influenced by material forces within and beyond their control from chance to COVID to domestic and foreign policy decisions. These competitive games are all bound up in the powerful cultural myths and traditions of art, spectacle, destiny, and celebrity found within the artists’ works. 

Jiannan Wu “Wonder Wheel” 2022 – Acrylic on resin, metal, and wood, Edition of 3 + 1 AP, 68 x 60 x 17 cm, 26.5 x 23.5 x 6.5 in

The exhibition itself grew out of a series of chance operations that brought the artists together for a series of studio visits. During their first visit, Wu shared his ornate “Destiny is All” merry-go-round depicting an array of figures drawn from pop culture and myth whose ambitions and aspirations are set on a predetermined, inescapable path. As luck or fate would have it, Powhida had an unrealized sketch from the early days of the global pandemic that would become “The Carousel”.   

Jiannan Wu “Destiny is All” 2022 – Acrylic on resin, metal, and wood, Edition of 3 + 1 AP, 61 x 60 x 21 cm, 24 x 23.5 x 8 in

This chance occurrence reflects the deeper connection found in the artists’ practices that share a preoccupation or obsession with the cyclical and recurring tensions between the individual and collective, whether it is Zinedine Zidane’s role on the French National Team or Bernie Sander’s position within the Democratic Party. The artists’ shared sense of humor also serves to undercut any pessimism about playing the game of art allowing them to reflect on the consequences of globalization from the artist’s studio to the impact of China’s Zero COVID policy.

Jiannan Wu “Summit 2019” 2022 – Acrylic on resin, metal, and wood, Edition of 3 + 1 AP, 24 x 80 x 10 cm, 9.5 x 31.5 x 4 in

Exhibition Dates

February 25 – March 18, 2023

Opening Reception

Saturday, February 25, 12:00 – 16:00


Gallery Poulsen

Staldgade 32

The Brown Meatpacking District

1699 Copenhagen, Denmark 

Gallery Hour

Wednesday – Friday, 10:00 – 17:30

Saturday, 11:00 – 15:00

Artist Websites

Jiannan Wu

William Powhida

Contact or tel.+ 45 33 33 93 96

For more information, please visit:

(text & photo courtesy of Jiannan Wu & Gallery Poulsen)

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