AN Hong Water Buddha, 1997
FotoFest’s 12th edition of the International Biennial of Photography and Photo-related Art, presents work by 34 Chinese artists, March 7- April 20, 2008 in Houston, Texas. Photography from China 1934-2008 features ten newly commissioned and curated exhibitions, including two recently recovered archives from the 1930s and 1940s. The China programs are a cornerstone of FOTOFEST2008, the six-week. city-wide celebration of photo-based art.
In addition to these exhibitions, FOTOFEST2008 presents a symposium on twentieth century Chinese Photography with Chinese scholars GU Zheng, (Fudan University, Shanghai) and CAO Tai, (Guangdong Museum, Guangzhou) as well as a film program, New Cinema in China, with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Forty Chinese artists and curators will attend FOTOFEST2008, its acclaimed portfolio review for artists; the Fine Print Auction; professional workshops; and the special presentation by Hewlett-Packard (HP) of new printing technology for
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Menil Collection, Houston Center for Photography and the Holocaust Museum Houston are among 100 other organizations presenting exhibitions as part of FOTOFEST2008. Many of their exhibitions continue the China focus and the ancillary subject of Transformations as well as their own independent themes.
Photography from China 1934-2008, FotoFest’s exhibition program for FOTOFEST2008, reveals the diversity of roles and styles that have shaped photographic art over the past 74 years in China.
ETHNOGRAPHY, PHOTOJOURNALISM AND PROPAGANDA, 1934-1975
Reflecting a growing interest by the Chinese in the peoples and politics of China’s western border regions near Tibet, ZHUANG Xueben (1909-1984) began traveling to China’s far-western border regions in 1934. His work from 1934-1939 is one of the earliest and most serious photographic examinations of ethnic minorities in these regions. FOTOFEST2008 is the first time this work is being shown outside of China.
In 1937, at the age of 25, Sha Fei (1912-1950) had himself assigned to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 8th Route Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Sha Fei photographed combat and training with the Chinese forces allied with CHIANG Kai-shek, against the Japanese. He set up pictorial magazines to publicize the 8th Route Army and its work in rural villages, and he organized a mass media system that became a principal part of the CCP’s propaganda system for the next 20 years, through the 1970s. After Sha Fei’s controversial execution in 1950, his work was blacklisted until the late l980s when his family and colleagues succeeded in rehabilitating his name. FOTOFEST2008 exhibits the newly recovered work of Sha Fei for the first time outside of China.
Editors and photographers trained by Sha Fei during the war became leaders of major CCP pictorial news media and propaganda agencies, using photography as one of the primary media promoting Chairman MAO Zedong’s agenda during The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). The exhibition curated by James and Vicky Chen, founders of 798 Gallery, one of Beijing’s most respected photography galleries, shows how photography was choreographed to promote the message of collective solidarity. The exhibit, commissioned by FotoFest, features three photographers working for news publications during The Cultural Revolution: WENG Nai Qiang, XIAO Zuang, and WANG Shi Long.
INDEPENDENT DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY, 1985-2000
In the mid-1980s, a new generation of Chinese photographers began to produce strong personal bodies of photo-documentary work outside official media and news agencies. The first to gain international prominence was WU Jialin with his work on Yunnan province. A chance discovery of this work by FotoFest co-founder Frederick Baldwin at Marc Riboud’s Paris apartment led to his first exhibition in Western art world at FOTOFEST1996.
Two subsequent generations of photographers continue to develop independent approaches to documentary work. LU Nan’s, interest in the ethics of social interaction, led him to photograph the institutionalization of the mentally ill and underground Catholic communities in China. LI Lang’s early poetic work with the Yi People in central-western China has led to his current work exploring the human imprint on China’s landscape.
CONCEPTUAL AND STAGED WORK - NEW PHOTO, 1993-1998
In 1996, two Beijing artists, RongRong and LIU Zheng founded the influential New Photo magazine, an independent, underground publication that circulated in Beijing’s art circles. The magazine signaled a burgeoning Chinese interest in photography as a medium of contemporary art and marked an important turning point in the development of contemporary photography in China. FOTOFEST2008 presents this new exhibition for the first time outside of China, with 15 artists published in New Photo magazine. The exhibit is curated by ZHANG Li and organized by Three Shadows Photography Art Centre
CONCEPTUAL AND STAGED WORK - CURRENT PERSPECTIVES, 1998-2008
Individual shows of 11 current, multi-disciplinary Chinese artists address issues of identity, memory, spirituality, gender, urbanism, and the complex relationships between the present and the past in contemporary China. Designed as a series of one-person exhibitions, these shows feature BAI Yiluo, CANG Xin, CHENG Lingyang, XING Danwen, LIU Lijie, LIU Ren, SUN Guojuan, WANG Chuan, WU Gaozhong, YAO Lu, and ZENG Han.