For immediate release – Chinese Contemporary is pleased to announce the opening of Uncanny Perceptions, a solo exhibition for camera obscura photographer Shi Guorui. Following successful solo shows at the de Young Foundation in San Francisco and at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Chinese Contemporary is giving the artist simultaneous solo exhibitions in their Beijing and New York galleries. The exhibition is comprised of new camera obscura works completed in Shenzhen, Beijing, San Francisco and Shanghai, which highlight the artist’s mastery of technique. The exhibition runs from 1 December 2007 – 28 February 2008 in both Beijing and New York. A catalogue highlighting the artist’s new and old works will also be produced.
Since his transformation of a watchtower on the Great Wall of China into a pin-hole camera in 2004, Shi Guorui has continuously produced richly detailed photographs of landscapes and cityscapes. His photographic process is as storied as his photos are striking. The artist has completed over ten, large-scale projects, which have taken him across the globe from the base camp of Mount Everest to San Francisco’s Alcatraz. This exhibition, however, highlights new works taken closer to home – in Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai.
With this exhibition, Shi Guorui has turned his focus to China’s iconic architecture, both ancient and contemporary. Photographs from the Beijing series capture the rapid rise of the city’s skyline and the architectural and historical incongruity of these immense steel towers that, in themselves, constitute tremendous feats of engineering and capital investment. More importantly, Shi Guorui’s photographs illustrate the enormous scale of these new buildings, most notably with Beijing – New CCTV, and present them as empty shells, rather than symbols of China’s economic development. These are often architectural projects that have reached completion, yet, through Shi Guorui’s photographic technique, buildings are rendered void of life. The work, Beijing – CBD, seemingly portrays Beijing’s Central Business District as scenery from a futuristic cartoon, where human life is rendered minute by large, cement highways around which stark steel-and-glass office buildings are clustered. Similarly, Beijing – Wangjing points to the rapid construction of suburban mini-cities that, in a matter of years, have sprung up from what was previously farmland.
Much as Shi Guorui’s Beijing series reexamines the course of urban development in China’s capital city, his Shenzhen series (Time is Money, Efficiency is Life and Deng Xiaoping, 2007) examines the symbols and rhetoric that have defined the era of opening and reform ushered in by Deng Xiaoping. As one of China’s special economic zones, Shenzhen has become a model for rapid economic development and a symbol of the new “get rich fast” attitude. Shi Guorui’s selection of the Western slogan famously quoted by Deng, “Time is money. Efficiency is Life,” and Deng Xiaoping’s image are not accidental. Rather, these works are a poignant comment on the stark ideological, economic and societal contrasts that exist between China’s free-wheeling special economic zones and the rest of the country. Highlighting the glaring contradictions that have marked China’s push for modernization.
Shi Guorui's camera obscura photographs provide a surreal vision. By removing all activity from the image, the subjects are reduced to their essence. Shi Guorui sees it as a purification of the soul. He brings this approach to a range of iconic locations with his new works capturing images of important architectural monuments in China. These new works, much like the three photographs he recently shot in the western United States (San Francisco, Los Angeles and Donner Pass, 2006), symbolize dreams and hopes, both attained and unfulfilled.
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