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Artist Feature

Every week an artist is featured whose single image was published by Der Greif. The Feature shows the image in the original context of the series.

Guanyu Xu - One Land to Another

Feb 15, 2017

I was born and raised in a conservative family in Beijing, China, where expressions of overt non-heteronormative behavior were forbidden. It was not until my arrival to the United States in 2014 that I finally had the courage to reveal my homosexuality. My exposure to American culture as a teenager through films and TV shows planted an American Dream in my mind. However, my study of American history has resulted in my knowledge of deep rooted anti-Chinese sentiments. Specifically, regarding sexuality, the dominance of white, macho gays has meant that I became an undesirable alien in this “land of freedom.”
I investigate issues of homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and cultural imperialism through photographs and installations. To question ‘‘who has the power to represent’’ is at the core of my practice. My photographic training at the Beijing Film Academy emphasized traditional documentary and commercial photography, and Hollywood-style filmmaking. These dominant modes of image making often simplified and reduced complex explorations of marginalized groups. It became necessary for me to use my work to critique the representation of marginalized groups that are stereotyped in mainstream media.
In my ongoing project, One Land To Another, I present my personal journey in the United States in a half documentary/ half fiction narrative through photographic installations. I intersperse self-portraits of my staged death and American landscapes, with images in which I perform acts of intimacy with other gay men. The presence of my Asian gay body disrupts the dominance of queer aesthetics which privilege a narrow, white, “masculine” homonormativity. Ultimately, the project offers an alternative representation of Asians that is seldom found in the mainstream.
My relationship to photography is an expansive one, which brings the medium into close proximity with installation. This allows me to extend my examination of the framing of knowledge and power. I use materials such as neon tubes, transparencies, and LED lights referencing Minimalism and the Light and Space movement, and treating them as an extension of the photography. In the installations Constructing Utopias, I use raw neon tubes and printed screenshots of American mainstream movies to rupture the dominance of Western visual perspectives and Western ideology. By assembling the neon tubes to create facades for the images, and by filling tubes with torn screenshots, I queer the minimalist aspect of neon tubes, to question the modernist idea of ultimate truth. This scrutiny of issues of filmic iconography examines the use of cinematographic image to disseminate Western ideology globally, while perpetuating capitalist popular culture as a cultural imperialist project.
The departure from my motherland gives me the transnational perspective and a shifting viewpoint, which enables me to offer my queerness, displacement, and longing for utopia to destabilize the traditional norms in terms of race, sexuality, and ideology.


Artist Blog

The blog of Der Greif is written entirely by the artists who have been invited to doing an Artist-Feature. Every week, we have a different author.

Leonard Suryajaya

Feb 22, 2017 - Guanyu Xu

Leonard Suryajaya’s work explores intricate and complicated layers of selfhood in the context of cultural background, intimacy, sexual preference, and personal displacement. Influenced by the cultural milieu of inter-ethnic relations in Indonesia, he utilizes photography, video, along with elements of performance and installation. Through the use of personal narrative and storytelling, his work challenges and deconstructs the perspective we use to scrutinize and observe our roles in a transnational global world.
BFA, 2013, California State University, Fullerton; MFA, 2015, School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Selected Exhibitions: Hyde Park Art Center, IL; Irvine Fine Arts Center, CA; Expo Chicago, IL; Chicago Artist Coalition, IL; The Center for Fine Arts Photography, CO; Roy G Biv Gallery, OH. Collections: The Art Institute of Chicago; Joan Flasch Artist Book Collection. Publication: Lenscratch; Chicago Tribune; Chicago Magazine; South Side Weekly. Lectures: Society for Photographic Education 2014 National Conference, MD; Society for Photographic Education 2016 National Conference, NV. Awards: New Artist Society Award; James Weinstein Memorial Fellowship; Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Prize for Emerging Artist; Robert Giard Foundation Fellowship; Lensculture Emerging Talent 2016; The Santo Foundation Fellowship.
Leonard Suryajaya uses photography to test the boundaries of intimacy, community, and family. His works show how the everyday is layered with histories, meanings, and potential. In elaborately staged photographs bursting with competing patterns and colors, Leonard creates absurd but affectionate tableaux featuring his family. Enlisting his loved ones into his photographic project, he encourages ever more wild combinations and poses as means for them to perform their loyalty. The results are photographs that are tender and critical, bound up as they are with the struggles of familial authority and self identity. He has recently extended this in his work with school children and the complex but fragile societies they form among themselves and in relation to cultural forces both popular and traditional, local and global.

 
Many of Leonard’s investigations are rooted in the particularity of his upbringing as an Indonesian citizen of Chinese descent, as a Buddhist educated in Christian schools in a Muslim-majority country, and as someone who departed from his family and his culture’s definitions of love and family. Leonard explores these tensions in the everyday interaction, in the chance juxtaposition of culturally-coded objects, and in the disruptions stirred by queer relations. His works perform the ways in which life is soaked not just with one’s own emotional connections but larger, external histories of exile, religion, citizenship, duty, and belonging. His photographs work cumulatively to establish narratives, and he combines these images with videos that document family histories, that play out fantasies, that test group dynamics, or that use the format of the interview to turn his sitters’ gaze back upon his role as artist and facilitator. In all of these, we feel the push and pull of allegiance and autonomy in every odd detail that his works retain as reminders.

 

– David J. Getsy, Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago


Nancy Valladares

Feb 21, 2017 - Guanyu Xu

Nancy Dayanne Valladares (b. 1991) is an interdisciplinary artist from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Her work seeks to trace the cultural and linguistic transactions that occur when bodies are translated from one geography to another. Through writing, photography and filmmaking, Valladares utilizes the material culture of Honduras, to reconfigure forms representation and storytelling.

 
Valladares completed her Bachelor in Fine Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she was the recipient of the Endsley Memorial Fellowship, a Distinguished Scholar Award, and the World Less Traveled Grant. Her work has been exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago, Sullivan Galleries, SUGS Gallery X,
ExFest Film Festival, The Research House for Asian Art, Columbia College, and Roman Susan Gallery. Nancy Valladares lives and works in Chicago.

 

Here is her artist statement:
Grandmother buried our chords umbilical beneath the soil.

 
She had saved them in a little glass jar until it was time to expand the
boundaries of our home, and nestled them in one of the concrete
pillars. She did that with her children’s, and I like to think her
grandmother did so as well.

 
Her action was a prayer, that we would remain anchored to those sites
where our tiny bones stretched and milk teeth were shed. From her I
inherited a labyrinth of stories, now faded by memory—like the
photographs of our home we keep in a tiny case under our closet.

 
My relationship to soil is that of alchemy and storytelling. Buried
beneath it, within it, are ancient ledgers that document the many
transactions that occur between bodies.

 

partial traces
incomplete registers
silent offerings that have no name.

 
So I excavate. I photograph. I bury. I drown.”

 

Please check out her video “4 movement and the birth of the sun”:


“Cactus Casts Shadows of Flowers” by Amiko Li

Feb 20, 2017 - Guanyu Xu

Amiko Li is a visual artist lives between New York and Shanghai. Li’s work explores the construction of gender and identity in daily life through strategy of staging and reenactment. He is the recipient of the Center Project Launch Award Juror’s Choice and Royal Ulster Academy Portrait Prize. His works have been exhibited at Aperture Foundation, New York; Center for Photography at Woodstock, New York; Thorvald Meyers 51, Norway; Künstler, Australia; and Brighton Photo Fringe 14, United Kingdom. His works have been published in Esquire Russia; Juxtapoz Magazine; Adbusters and Lens Magazine China.

 

Here is his statement about the project:
“I am interested in the construction of gender and identity in our daily life. In Cactus Casts Shadows of Flowers, I observe people and their posture, carefully exploring on my own identity through the strategy of staging and reenactment, referencing a variety of sources—anime, manga, music video, television footage, and film stills.”


Sherae Rimpsey

Feb 19, 2017 - Guanyu Xu

Sherae Rimpsey is a multidisciplinary artist and writer. She has exhibited her work internationally, most notably at the Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, Poland; the Zentral Bibliothek in Zurich, Switzerland and National Library of Buenos Aires, Argentina as a contributing artist in Luis Camnitzer’s El Ultimo Libro – The Last Book project; and the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany where she was awarded the prestigious Solitude Fellowship. She is the recipient of a Philadelphia Foundation Grant, as a Flaherty Fellow and a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship and Residency. She has a BFA in Technology & Integrated Media with an emphasis in Visual Culture from the Cleveland Institute of Art and an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

Here is her artist statement:
“I work within a hybrid practice of drawing, film, video, writing, installation and performance to construct subtle narratives that express some lost moment of being. The work rejects fixed notions of ‘being-in-the-world’, and facilitates a recursive engagement with the poetic. Black existence is such that we live in subterfuge. We are constantly reinventing, squirreling away, and ‘bout our shit’ in really dynamic and powerful ways, in part, to fend mutha fuckas off. I make work, to ask not only what it means to locate, but to recognize oneself in the world.”

 
Please check out her video “Meddling in the Afterlife”:


“A Work of Narrative Intimacy” by Zihui Song and Work by Yubo Dong

Feb 18, 2017 - Guanyu Xu

Zihui Song (b. 1990, Xi’an, China) is an artist lives and works in the United States and China. She holds an MFA in Photographic & Electronic Media from Maryland Institute College of Art. With the use of photography and video, Song’s work explores the complexities of women’s bewilderments and identities in the context of Chines patriarchal society. Her work has been exhibited internationally in a variety of venues, her latest shows including the VAFA 2016 Film Festival, Macau; Project 1612 Film Festival, Peoria, IL; Qifang 2016 Screenings, Traveling Screenings in China.

 

Here is her statement about her project:
“A Work of Narrative Intimacy” is an ongoing project investigating representations of women’s identities and autonomies. While feminist thought helps us understand ourselves in a patriarchal world and frees us to make informed choices, feminist orthodoxy is becoming another set of rules that takes away women’s choice and autonomy. Instead of helping women understand themselves and giving them tools to resist patriarchy, the feminist orthodoxy is replacing one set of oppressive, elitist rules with another equally oppressive and elitist set of rules.

 

By taking an intimate relationship as a subject, I utilize photography to challenge the idealistic feminist relationship by playing an ostensibly passive role. By means of self-definition, self-disclosure and self-exploration, this work subverts prevailing negative stereotypes of feminists and asks if there is a set of criteria that makes an individual an authentic feminist. My intention of this work is to convey the importance of women’s autonomies and exemplify what Simone de Beauvoir said in The Second Sex, “The true problem for woman is to reject theses flights from reality and seek self-fulfillment in transcendence.”

 

Yubo Dong  is a photographer based in Irvine. Influenced by his undergraduate education in Hankamer School of Business, Baylor University, Yubo works largely comments to the power structure in business organizations and in consumer cultures. His works have been shown in ARCHES space, Dallas; Irvine Fine Art Center, Irvine; gallery no one, Chicago, and Society for Photographic Education National Conference in Las Vegas and Tulsa, among others. Yubo Dong is a MFA candidate at University of California, Irvine.
Yubo Dong’s works are informed by his education in business and research on consumerism and capitalism. Through depicting the venues where sale and promotion happens, the photographs present the performance of participants, as well as the promotional environment in business transactions. By abstracting these space and moments into photographs, audiences are encouraged to examine the interaction and performance.


“Puppy Love” by Kanthy Peng

Feb 17, 2017 - Guanyu Xu

Kanthy Peng was born in 1992 in Beijing, China. She studied photography and film at the Beijing Film Academy from 2011~2012. From 2013~2016, she studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and received her BFA degree in photography department. Her works deal with femininity and intimate relationships.
Peng’s works have been exhibited in the spaces include the Woman Made Gallery, Chicago; Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins; St. Louis Artists’ Guide and Galleries, and others. Last year, her first solo exhibition was held at Gallery X in Chicago, IL.

 

“I make photographs and videos of my family and my life; each image and vignette conveys the unsettled liminal experiences between East/West and the deconstruction and construction of femininity/daughterhood across cultural and ideological boundaries by recomposing my personal life story of vulnerability, joy and confusion. Having encountered the frustrations of my fantasies in actual relationships and the critique of gender binaries, in my
artworks, I take a mixed perspective to explore interplays between these contradictory categories. In Puppy Love (2014-2016) series, I explore the collaborative interaction of gender roles by my girlfriend at the time and myself through a series of intimate portraits. The change of
gestures, expressions, and atmospheres in those images represent our desires of performing and traversing between a range of contradictory roles, thus capturing gender/sexuality as a flux rather than fixed categories.”


Works by Wenxin Zhang

Feb 16, 2017 - Guanyu Xu

Wenxin Zhang (b. 1989, China) lives and works in the United States and China. She received her MFA degree at California College of the Arts in 2013. As a visual artist/writer, her practice focuses on the relationship between the real and the virtual, as well as the boundary between different media. Zhang’s process often begins with her personal experience and carefully tends to metaphoric and marginalized stories so as to unveil larger questions about the suppressed.

 

Wenxin Zhang is a recipient of Magnum Foundation Atlantic Philanthropies Grant. She was selected as a finalist in 2014 Three Shadows Photography Award as well as the 2014 Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award. She was also an artist in residence at Rayko Photo Center San Francisco, CPW Woodstock, Wassaic Residency and Thicket Residency.



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