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The Klein Sun Gallery in Chelsea has unveiled two new shows, “Fountain 泉,” by Beijing-based photographer Cai Dongdong, and “The Other Shore,” by Sichuan professor Zhong Biao, both on view through March 19.
A former portrait photographer for China’s People Liberation Army, Dongdong combined sobriety and humor into “Fountain 泉,” which he distinguished as a Dadaist installation, rather than a series of photographs. Altering silver gelatin prints with folding, etching, and the introduction of other objects and materials, Dongdong created what he calls, “Illusions,” to refresh the medium of photography, which he felt was no longer special but, rather, exhausted. The original photographs, some dating back to the ‘40s, were taken by the artist, gifted by friends, or scavenged in flea markets. The exhibition is not without irony, with works including a war portrait by the ocean with a faucet plugged into the waves, teasing the subjects charged with protecting the South China Sea. Other conceptual pieces included a mirror with a camera lens attached, designed to obscure the face looking into it, and a hanging branch studded with vintage portraits, which he likened to “a paradise of our memories.”
Biao’s hyper-realistic oil paintings in “The Other Shore” depart from his past practice’s focus on Chinese culture, shifting instead into a more fluid, temporal realm. “The human eye has the ability to perceive 24 frames in the period of one second,” he explained. “That’s the amount of information that we can visibly…process.” His paintings, occasionally employing UV photo transfer, capture wild fantasies of landscapes and female figures, melding the past and future into complete, extravagant, chaotic moments that we are “helplessly trying to perceive,” he said. The title of the show refers both to an alternative translation of “pāramitā,” the Buddhist concept of nurturing pure virtues to gain enlightenment, and to the facets of the world that lie beyond our perception. “Things in the distance,” Biao described. “Lost histories…the origins of our universe.”