Neutral Sex: Limits of Gender and Stereotypes

"Wang’s works create an awareness of the fundamental, and often ridiculous, notions of identity society enforces through gender."

Hidden behind a thick grey gate on an ordinary street in a picturesque Xuhui neighborhood, is a small but alluring exhibit on the problems of gender and social stereotypes. Artist Wang Xuejun showcases his work at Noeli Gallery until Nov. 10,, offering visitors a view into the concept of gender and identity and challenges the traditional roles associated with the idea of masculinity and femininity.  Wang Xuejun is a contemporary artist, hailing from Wulan in Qinghai province. His works have been featured in both obscure galleries and large art shows across Asia over the course of many years.

The Neutral Sex exhibit consists of only two small rooms, featuring both photographs and small drawings on mixed material. The stillness behind the heavy gates surrounding the small gallery makes the visit a calm and serene experience. Despite a chilly autumn wind, the sunshine makes the weather rather pleasant, and the gallery lets the door remain wide open for anyone to simply just step in and view the exhibit. Considering its small facilities and secluded location, the gallery is unsurprisingly unoccupied, yet with only two modest rooms, this becomes nothing but a relief to any visitor. With clear grey walls, and subtle lighting, it becomes clear that the focus is on the art and nothing else. The first room, with windows out to the small courtyard in front of the building, exhibits the acrylic drawings of Wang; small pencil works with splatters of color. The second, and final room, is larger and darker with larger pieces hanging on the plain walls.

From a purely superficial view, the exhibit varies among elements and materials, as the exhibit features oil paintings, photography, and acrylics. Yet by keeping a solid connection to the intended theme, Wang manages to maintain a clear thread throughout the two showrooms. The idea behind the works never becomes confusing; it instead creates a fascination as the exhibit becomes dynamic and active in its portrayal of gender perceptions.

The drawings in the beginning are small and less prominent than the larger works, yet they do give a good preview of Wang’s theme. Conflicts, moments, or just body parts are being depicted in a way to subtly play with, and criticize, the expectations of gender.

The photographs continue to play with the boundaries of each gender stereotype, and many of them bring modern concepts and trends into being, such as clothing styles and commercial brands. The zoomed in motives and emphasis on colors and symbols becomes a vital force in depicting the conflicts between male and female notions on gender identity. The photos are modestly lighted and from this models become more noticeable; highlighting even the smallest detail in body language. The works sets out, through the use of body language and traditional gender connected symbols, like lingerie, to actively question the idea of gender in a modern context. The naked male body pictured in the photographs, becomes an interesting reflection on the openness and simplicity of the concept of masculinity, which then becomes challenged through the use of background projections and special lightening.

Wang’s works create an awareness of the fundamental, and often ridiculous, notions of identity society enforces through gender. The exhibit offers an interesting view on the notion of gender in a contemporary context, and the only valid discomfort to complain about would be that the it was too short and over too quickly.

This article was written by Sabina Olsson. Please send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Sabina Olsson

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