In January 2001, Chambers Fine Art exhibited twelve photographs by the Beijing artist and photographer Rong Rong. Many of Rong's photographs are staged in the ruins of urban Beijing, the remains of historic homes destroyed as developers forced families out in the early nineties to make way for modern buildings. Those who live in Beijing often visually tune these ruins out. They walk past them between the newer developments, treating them as urban blind spots.
In these empty lots with half destroyed homes, the once private dwelling spaces of families are now dilapidated and exposed for public viewing. The presence of a family is felt through their absence. The crumbling walls reinforce this feeling of absence. It is to these settings that Rong adds torn photographs of movie stars and damaged posters of fashion models. Sometimes, the posters appear to have been left behind by former inhabitants, as if they where once part of the private home decor that is now made public. Other times, the effect is more like collage, where the insertion of a picture within a picture by the artist is very apparent. It's the juxtaposition of the images that provides tension to the art. The appearance of other photographs in these pictures of interior spaces turned inside out are like stand-ins for the human figure; it is their presence and relationship to their surroundings that suggest meaning.
On one level, the photographs appear to be a recording of a moment in history, like a photojournalist documentation of a scene witnessed. The gray tonalities of the black and white photograph with hand-dyed colors add to this historical effect. Li Xiantang, Beijing's most-renowned art critic, says Rong Rong's photographs "are both sad and optimistic, like a fairytale, he poeticizes reality. Rong Rong's pictures possess twisted beauty, they appear natural but contain a vivid contrast."
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