Born in Beijing in 1965, Hong Hao graduated from the Printmaking department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1989. Although he also studied oil painting, his primary interest was always in the graphic arts and photography.
The wide range of his interests can be seen in the series of thirty-one prints known as the Selected Scriptures of Hong Hao on which he worked intermittently between 1989 and the mid-1990s. Using visual and literary quotations from a wide range of sources both ancient and modern, ranging from Sun Tzu’s Art of War to the literature of the Cultural Revolution, he ranged freely over current developments in the geopolitical and cultural spheres.
In the New Topographical World Map, for example, countries are represented according to their international status while in The Holy Caves characters from the Cultural Revolution substitute the Buddhist images in the Dunhuang caves. Using between 10 and 100 screens to achieve his effects, the trompe-l’oeil volumes are densely packed with information. He has spoken of his wish “to compile a ‘new encyclopedia,’ to put forward my own understanding of this ever-changing world.”
In a subsequent series of works Scenes from the Metropolis executed between 1999 and 2000 Hong continued to develop the multilayered approach of the Selected Scriptures, using a Song Dynasty masterpiece as the basis for his commentary on contemporary China.
The current exhibition, Hong Hao’s first one-person exhibition in the United States, is conceived as a Reading Room, a quiet public space in which books can be considered from many different viewpoints. A selection from the flattened tomes of Selected Scriptures provides the background for a display of Hong Hao’s own books published in limited editions, the traditional string-bound Selected Scriptures and two albums from Scenes from the Metropolis. Books are also the theme of a new series of sculptures in which they are considered not as purveyors of meaning but as objects that can be handled and treated in different ways.
Immersed in traditional Chinese culture and yet detached from it, meticulous in his craftsmanship but fully aware of the efficacy of computers to generate images, Hong Hao is an artist whose insights into the rapidly developing land of his birth are marked equally by admiration for the achievements of the past and pleasure in the accomplishments of the present.