李涛的工作是基于材料的，他的材料大多数是人造物如硅胶丙烯、塑料、三合板、水泥......还有一部分是常见的却难以料想的材料，比如空调的内芯、 下跳棋用的玻璃球、宜家的家具......再有一种就真的是普通人不会了解的材料，例如便于雕刻的聚四氟乙烯、看似胶状但是硬度极高的聚氨酯。 所以把这个展览叫做“次生”，也是来自他的工作基础的本性。去他的工作室参观是一种巨大乐趣，像是去往一个次生材料的植物园:五颜六色的材料块，工具(也可能变成材料)，完成的作品(仍然可能被新材料的到来而更改)以及未完成的作品......眼睛和手都可以得到丰富体验，而大脑也必须跟艺术家一起不断组合和想象，因为这一切之间的界限是模糊的而又极度敏感的，似乎每一个来访者都有可能改变它们的样态。
Li Tao's work is based on materials, most of them are manmade, such as silicone, Acrylic, plastic, plywood, cement and so on, some are quite common but unexpected, including inner components of air conditioner, glass balls of checkers, and furniture from IKEA; others are usually not familiar to the ordinary people, for example, PTFE that is easy to process, or PU (polyurethane), which is gel-like but with very high hardness. The title of exhibition, "Secondary", is actually to indicate the nature of Li's work. It is a great pleasure to visit the artist's studio, much like going to a botanic garden consisted of the secondary materials: colorful blocks, tools (possibly would be used as materials), finished works (still could be modified with new materials) and unfinished ones. While eyes and hands enjoy the overwhelming experience, one's brain must follow the artist's creative logic to imagine the combinations: since the boundaries among them are blur but extremely sensitive, seemingly each visitor may have effect on their forms.
Li Tao's inspiration often comes from the encounters among materials, the connection of each other breeds new forms, subsequently triggering other connections, so on and so forth, until those materials grow into what he wants. Sometimes, his idea derives from the observation in another way, such as flapping plastic sheets in the fierce spring wind of Beijing. The artist's studio looks like a factory, indeed, that professional workers get involved, but his working style remains quite classic. Just like Michelangelo facing a marble block, at every and each moment, the artist surrounded by plenty of materials must feel and adjust on site by himself. Nothing is finalized yet, the finished forms of works have never been achieved right before the opening of exhibition, because once the works arrive at the exhibition site, they would react with the particular space "physically and chemically", and keep evolving until the last minute.
On the first impression, Li Tao's works seem to be comparable with those of the Russian constructivists, but not follow the trend: they neither celebrate the existence of machines and manmade products, nor bear the ecstasy and positive spirit of the new ideology. The artist himself believe that he is attempting to get rid of the specific references to social politics and create an "ahistorical" moment. In a sense, the intention is quite obvious that Li has deconstructed these secondary materials' social political environment, with which he was very familiar in the past he lived and worked. As an architect, he designed districts, shopping malls, cinemas and so on, the environment elements required for the standardized and scaled city life. Li Tao's experience as an architect makes him very sensitive to the repetitions, mediocrities and dilemmas brought by those elements, meanwhile, utilize the same ones to create or reveal another world, which is always parallel but not related to our daily life. Most of his works are vivid and colorful, constantly offering the unexpected features, such as different textures, concave-convex forms, ways of extending and cutting, as if they are "puzzle toys", very interesting but could never be solved, and filled with complicated innocence and detailed purity.
李涛工作室 Li Tao's Studio
Interestingly, the contradiction to the approach of deconstruction is that no one has been more profoundly engaging in the formation of social history than an architect in terms of materials and visual perception, especially in a period that the country grows and the scale of cities expands rapidly. Therefore, it is impossible to get rid of the historical, social, political references and achieve the suspensing space-time of individual philosophy, as what Li wants. However, this impossibility associates with the relevance of his work, just like we would naturally think of our life when looking at glass balls, polyfoam and plywood, the secondary materials themselves essentially present the most subtle history of politics.