‘ CHINA seen by…’ photography exhibition at URI

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shows Asian country in eyes of the lens holder

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 11, 2007—The University of Rhode Island’s Fine Arts Center Galleries will offer a unique, bold photography exhibition this fall called “CHINA seen by …” that should be seen by anyone interested in globalization, culture, fine art, and contemporary China as viewed through the eyes of photographers from different cultures.

“CHINA seen by…” examines China through the works of 15 contemporary fine art photographers, some Chinese, some Westerners, of various generations, backgrounds and training. The exhibition compares and contrasts the impressive works by leading Chinese artists or “insiders” with those created by Western photographers visiting from abroad, or “outsiders.”

The ambitious exhibition, will run from Oct. 2 through Dec. 9 in the Main Gallery of URI’s Fine Art Center, to complement URI’s fall Honors Colloquium, China Rising, a public lecture series, which is examining the China’s dramatic transformation during the past three decades.

“The large-scale mostly color images present a series of vignettes, each telling its own story, but viewed collectively, the exhibition presents a picture of the character of contemporary China with its meteoric rise to the world stage and the influence of that global transformation,” says J. Tolnick Champa, director of the Fine Arts Center Galleries and curator of “CHINA seen by…”

“Everything is changing in China. There is vast urban renewal. Many of the photographers are interpreting that change in their own way,” says Champa.

Liu Zheng’s image of two wealthy Chinese businessmen dressed in suits with festive masks celebrating New Year’s Eve in Beijing could have been taken in any American city. In many ways the Chinese tradition seems to get incorporated into modern day. For instance, Huang Yan shows viewers an image of a man’s painted chest that resembles a decorative “tattoo”, but it is actually painted with fine brush strokes and displays a traditional Chinese landscape. “Landscape is an abode in which my mortal body can reside,” this photographer has commented.

Taiwan-born, New York artist Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao’s large panorama of New York City is mounted next to China’s Chi Peng’s digital montage of Times Square superimposed with massive Chinese advertising. “Is it all coming together or is it distinctive?” asks the curator.

Contemporary Chinese photography is extraordinarily popular, according to Champa who says that works are quickly sold from galleries. When she began conceiving the exhibition more than a year ago, she initially consulted with Valerie Doran, an American curator based in Hong Kong whose specializes in contemporary Chinese art, Mitchell Clark, former research fellow at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and curator Christopher Phillips of the International Center of Photography in New York who has done much to advance public understanding of contemporary China.

For more information about the exhibition and its programs, go to www.uri.edu/artgalleries.