Hong Lei’s Narrative: An Alternative Beauty, guest curated by Yang Shin-Yi, addresses the cultural imagery explicit in photography and installation. By way of photography, the exhibition shows how this notion of cultural imagery permeates throughout Hong Lei’s works.
Hong Lei was born in Changzhou, China in 1960. He majored in Chinese art and graduated from Nanjing Academy in 1987. This exhibition is the artist’s first solo show in America and it includes both photography and installation works, which span the years from 1996 to 2003. Hong Lei’s art has been well known for its photographic appropriation of scenes presented in masterpieces of Chinese ink paintings, in which he was particularly interested in landscapes and flower painting from the Song dynasty.
For the production of his works, he went to the same sites that appear in the landscape paintings, selected the same angles, and waited for the right moments to catch the scenes he needed. His work resembles both the scenes represented in the ink paintings, as well as the look of the actual sites today. This double resemblance makes the concept of his photographs complicated – as more than merely mimetic renderings of the ink paintings. He engages in dialogues between his own cultural tradition, as embodied in the narrative of landscape, and the contemporary environment of technology.
In addition to photographs, the artist presents two types of installations in which he draws from his personal memories and experiences for inspiration. First, he has assembled some traditional boxes from flea markets in Nanjing (the old Chinese capital city) which function as emblems for the narrative stages in the ink paintings. From these he has composed numerous readymade objects that express the local stories he has been told. Secondly, he presents a video installation, which addresses concerns parallel to those in the box installations.