Eli Klein Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on July 7th 2009, of Passing By China. This exhibition brings together the work of ten emerging and established artists whose work has been displayed worldwide— Hung Tung-Lu, Lian Dongya, Liu Bolin, Liu Zheng, Maleonn, Miao Xiaochun, Pan Yue, Wang Yiqiong, Yu Hang, and Zuoxiao Zuzhou. Using photography, these artists delve into the conflict between China’s past and future and the plight of the individual caught amidst the transition.
Since its invention in the early 19th century, photography has changed the face of art and traditional painting. The obsession with realism in painting, replicating the “true” image, whether a portrait, landscape, or still life, became suddenly obsolete; a photograph could capture a scene as it actually was, without the need for a painter’s interference.
These ten artists use the assumed “reality” of photography to highlight the commercialism and carefully controlled image of China, especially the lack of humanity that is engendered. Maleonn’s work engages with society’s changes in its pictorial references to classicism, replicating the composure and style of traditional painting in a modern medium like photography. The sense of transcendence is effectively conveyed to the viewer.
Lian Dongya, Hung Tung-Lu, and Miao Xiaochun feature highly artificial ‘dummy’ representations in place of real figures in their works. Xiaochun references a very literal history of painting, jarringly reinterpreted through the synthetic medium of computer-manipulation as well as photography. Dongya’s artifice offsets the violence of his narratives and calls into question the implications of a contemporary virtual reality. Hung Tung- Lu’s fantastical light-boxes speak of consumerism and the post-modern encounter between east and west.
In contrast, Liu Zheng and Yu Hang include actual individuals in their photographs, yet their work is no less dramatic. Yu Hang’s photographs of elaborately costumed women are rendered as if from history. Liu Zheng combines classical romanticism with pop-culture iconography in his depictions of Chinese social interactions.
The photography of Liu Bolin has the artist literally ‘blending-into’ his environment. Photographs of figures camouflaged within backgrounds such as demolition sights or Tiananmen Square explore the political and social situation in China while remaining ambiguous enough to be open to individual interpretation. Zuoxiao Zuzhou’s photograph of heaped pigs refers to Chinese motifs of happiness, luck, and abundance, yet is still indicative of the violent and grotesque.
Pan Yue, whose work comes to Eli Klein Fine Art directly from the Florida Museum of Photographic Art, manipulates China-specific icons such as Mao with the industrial revolution in a pop-art context. His playful work is an expression of the confusion of cultural identity that is inherent in modern China.