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Chambers Fine Art Beijing: Rong Rong's Ruin Pictures: 1996-1998 - 23 Apr 2011 to 5 June 2011

Current Exhibition

23 Apr 2011 to 5 June 2011

Red No.1-D, Caochangdi
Chaoyang District
p: + 86 (10) 5127 3298

Rong Rong, 1996 No. 9
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Artists in this exhibition: Rong Rong

Rong Rong's Ruin Pictures: 1996-1998

April 23 - June 5, 2011
Reception: Saturday, April 23, 3 - 6 pm

Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on April 23rd of Rong Rong’s Ruins, Fragments and Wedding Gown Series: 1996-2000. Since 1993 when he moved to the “East Village” in Beijing, Rong Rong has established himself at the center of the world of photography in China. In addition to his own creative photography which continues unabated to the present day, he has also been active as a magazine publisher (New Photo in 1995) and in 2007 was co- founder with inri of the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Beijing.

In his first sustained body of work, the “East Village “ photographs dating from 1993-5, Rong Rong focused on the activities of the group of young artists including performances by Zhang Huan and Ma Liuming which have since become key documents in the history of avant-garde performance in the 1990s. Occasional glimpses of the run-down village are distinctly secondary to highly dramatic photographs of the group of rebellious artists who were forced to abandon the village shortly after it attracted the attention of the authorities. Immediately following this series in 1996-98 came the Ruin Pictures in which the focus shifted from human subjects to the urban fabric of Beijing, not the famous monuments but areas of the inner city where traditional dwellings were being demolished on an unprecedented scale.

The romantic appeal of ruins has a long history in the western world, whether the monuments of ancient Rome that inspired so many artists from the Renaissance onward or the remains of gothic cathedrals and monasteries that had such a powerful effect on the imagination of countless visuals artists and writers . Throughout the twentieth century the camera has also documented natural disasters such as the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 and the man-made devastation caused by the world wars and numerous local conflicts. In contrast in the Ruin Pictures, Rong Rong documents the demolition of traditional dwellings in the name of modernization in central Beijing while endowing his photographs with a high level of cultural and emotive content.

Although some of the best known photographs from the series such as 1997 No. 1 are panoramic views of demolished buildings, the great majority are close-ups of what remains of the interiors. In the rubble-strewn courtyards of recently abandoned hutong the walls of demolished houses are still adorned with treasured family photographs, as well as tattered images of pop stars and pin-ups. Vivid testimony of the lives and interests of the former occupants, the poignancy of these photographs is intensified by awareness that their owners probably had no choice in their relocation. In sub-sets of the Ruin Photographs, Rong Rong frequently photographs the same location from a different angle – 1996 No.10 (1 & 2) - or focuses on a detail from a larger image, a way of exploring the formal possibilities inherent in an essentially formless subject.

Rong Rong continued his exploration of ruins in two further bodies of work, Fragments (1998) and the Wedding Gown (1997-2000). In the former he continued his exploration of found photographs as the subject matter for his own work, using fragments of film negatives cut into tiny pieces that he found in an abandoned house. The clandestine and voyeuristic quality of these images contrasts with the overt romanticism of the three groups of Wedding Gown photographs in which human figures dressed in elaborate costumes enact obscure dramas, culminating in the burning of the dress in Beijing No. 1 (1,2,3,4).

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