The traditional Chinese Album format has also been used in the twelfth century to the present for artists and photographers. This exhibition showcases the album, one of the most intimate of Chinese painting formats. The special structure of the album, in which each turn of the page is an opportunity to remake the world anew, presents unique possibilities and challenges for artists.
1) For a year in his mid-twenties, the photographer Taca Sui dedicated himself to the study of China’s most ancient poetry collection, The Book of Odes (Shijing). Inspired by the poems, which have long been considered a window into early Chinese civilization, Sui took a series of photographs in northern China, in the regions eulogized in the Shijing, which he then arranged into albums. Sui’s photographs follow the suggestive, elliptical nature of the poems: the images seem to hover on a pregnant pause or a strange moment of coincidence. Sui draws in equal measure on modern artists’ books and Chinese albums, creating a new hybrid form of contemporary art.
2) These twelve images were made from a digital scan of a single frame of 35mm film shot while the artist was visiting Mount Hua in winter 2005. To create this long album, Cherney selected a single horizontal slice of the negative image, separated it into twelve distinct “scenes,” and printed it on traditional Chinese paper. The result is a clever inversion of the traditional multipleviews album: though all the images come from a single photograph, when stretched across an album, they are imbued with a sense of narrative and journey.
To create albums like this one, photographer Michael Cherney selects a long slice from a single negative for enlargement. As a result of magnification, the grain of the film becomes a prominent feature in the printed image, replacing the potentially documentary nature of photography with the impressionistic effect of Chinese painting. Although born and raised in the United States, Cherney has adopted a Chinese name (Qiu Mai) and, for more than a decade, has been exploring processes that honor traditional Chinese materials, mounting techniques, and subject matter.