Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening of Rong Rong's East Village on May 9th, 2003. Recent photographs by Rong Rong, in which he photographed himself in various locations inside and outside Beijing, were exhibited at Chambers Fine Art in January 2001. This exhibition, however, is devoted to the body of work that first attracted international attention, his photographs of the activities of the group of artists who lived in the remote area of Beijing that was soon to be known as the East Village.
Rong Rong moved to this insalubrious part of town in 1992 because of the low rents, but shortly after moving in he discovered that he was not alone. Soon after he met most of the artists and musicians - Zhang Huan, Ma Liuming, Zhu Ming, Xu San and Zhu Zhou among others - who were to become his major subjects in the ensuing eighteen months.
"I want to take pictures of everybody in the village," he wrote to his sister. Rong Rong was present at some of the most memorable performances of the last decade, including Zhang Huan's 12 Square Meters and 65 Kilograms, Fen/Ma Liuming's lunch. In his photographs unexpected camera angles and dramatic chiaroscuro effects transform the occasional squalor and chaos of the actual events into powerful dream-like images. This period when a group of independent- minded artists, musicians and critics stimulated and brought out the best in each other did not last very long. The East Village was closed down by the police in 1994.
Referring to this crucial period in the development of Chinese avant-garde art in the 1990s, Wu Hung has written: "The crucial significance of the East Village community lies in its formation as a close alliance of performing artists and photographers, who inspired each other's work by serving as each other's models and audience. Viewed in the context of contemporary experimental Chinese art, this alliance initiated one of the most important developments in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when experimental artists working in different mediums increasingly envisioned and designed their works as performances, and when many of these artists were also increasingly attracted by photography, not only deriving inspiration from it but also making photographs of themselves."
The exhibition coincides with the publication of Rong Rong's East Village, a limited edition portfolio of forty of the most memorable photographs taken between 1993 and 1998. The photographs are divided into three groups according to their subjects and dates of execution. The first group, taken from 1993 to June 1994, portrays the East Villages artistic community in its original location. The second group records continuing performances by East Village artists from late 1994 to 1997, after the community had been forced to disperse. The third group consists of Rong Rong's self-portraits taken in his East Village days. Accompanying the photographs are extracts from the diary Rong Rong kept while he was living in the East Village with an extensive commentary by Wu Hung, entitled Rong Rong's East Village.
*Limited Edition Catalogue Available