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FOTOFEST2008 - Exhibitions
Photography from China, 1934 - 2008
March 7 - April 20, 2008

FOTOFEST2008 focuses on one of the most compelling cultural, political, and economic phenomena of the contemporary world - China and its transformation.

Politically and culturally, photography has been a key element in creating the public face of China since the late 19th century. From 1870 to 1920, photography helped explain and justify European economic exploitation and occupation of China. From 1938 - 1980, photography became a major tool in Communist Party campaigns to win internal public support for its philosophy and programs - and the message it wanted to send to the outside world. From 1980 - 2008, photography has become one of the major mediums of communication, public and private, about contemporary Chinese society.

Departing from most contemporary art programs on China, the FOTOFEST2008 exhibitions and programs will presesnt both historical and contemporary work. The historical component features three exhibitions showing works from 1934 - 1975 that have never been shown outside of China before. Seven contemporary programs and exhibitions present work from the late 1980's to 2008 - classical and mixed media work by Chinese artists addressing religion, ethnicity, gender, urban transformation, identity, globalization, and the inter-relationship of current art to classical Chinese art and history. All the exhibitions are by Chinese artists working in mainland China. Much of the work to be presented by FotoFest will be seen outside of China for the first time.

Accompanying the CHINA exhibitions, there is a presentation on the evolution of 20th century Chinese photography at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston with two leading Chinese scholar-curators, March 12, 2008.

Ethnography, Photojournalism and Propaganda: 1934-1975

  • ZHUANG Xueben, 1934 - 1939: The ethnographic and anthropological work on far western China and Tibetan regions is among first large-scale photography projects done in China by a Chinese photographer / ethnographer. It is the first exposition of this remarkable work outside China.

    Western China, 1934 - 1939
    LOCATION: One Allen Center - 500 Dallas, 713-223-5522
    OPENING RECEPTION: Monday, March 10, 6-8PM. Public is invited.

  • SHA Fei, 1937 - 1949: This is some of the first photographic work done for the Communist Party in the early years of military formation and during the Japanese occupation of China. The purpose of the work was to disseminate images of the Communist military in northeast China (the 8th Route Army) and the early work of rural Communist Party cadres. Despite continued Japanese harassment, SHA Fei recruited and trained a generation of photographers who continued this format of political propaganda journalism for the Communist government in the 1950's - 70's. On the northern front, SHA Fei established and disseminated a pictorial news magazine and a system of recording, cataloguing, preserving, and archiving photography. It is the first exposition of this work outside China.

    The Northern Front, The Anti-Japanese War, 1937 - 1946
    LOCATION: Two Allen Center - 1200 Smith, 713-223-5522

  • WENG Naiqiang, ZIAO Zhuang, and Weihong Shilong, 1965 - 1975: Photography and pictorial iconography were key elements in communicating the official face of the Cultural Revolution. Documentary photography became one of the principal tools of modern political propaganda. These photographers were photojournalists working for newspapers. Curated by pioneering Chinese gallery owners, James and Vicky Chen, the exhibit not only shows some of the best of the propaganda work being done at that time, but also gives voice to the complex and multi-layered way in which the Cultural Revolution is being 'seen', remembered, and debated by Chinese today.

    The Cultural Revolution, 1965 - 1975
    LOCATION: Three Allen Center - 333 Clay Street, 713-223-5522

    Independent Documentary Photography: 1985-2008

    Contemporary Chinese photo-based work shown outside China has tended to focus on flashy color conceptual, mixed-media work. But the tradition of black and white documentary photography continues to be a highly respected and ubiquitous part of Chinese photographic practice. The emergence of independent documentary photography done by individual photographers is a recent phenomenon. These three photographers are considered among the best independent documentary photographers working in China today. They span two generations from the mid 1980's to 2008.

  • WU Jialin: the older generation, working in the classical tradition of black and white social documentary work (1985 - 2007) - photographing traditional life in the ethnic villages of his birthplace, Yunnan province.

  • LU Nan: the middle generation (1993 - 2008), doing politically committed black and white documentary on subjects officially discouraged or forbidden by the Chinese government - institutions for the mentally ill and Catholic sects in China.

  • LI Lang: the younger generation (1997 - 2008), taking a conceptual or personally interpretive apporach to documentary work with both black and white and color photography. His intimate black and white photographs focus on the Yi People, a once isolated ethnic community in China. His color work reflects transformation of land and the countryside in contemporary China.

    Contemporary Photography - China
    LOCATION: Winter Street Studios - 2101 Winter Street, 713-223-5522
    OPENING RECEPTION: Monday, March 17, 2008, 7-9PM. Public is invited.

    Conceptual and Staged Work: 1993-2008

    New Photo 1993 - 1996
    An artist-led inter-disciplinary art initiative, New Photo, is a bridge between the photographic work that preceded the 1989 Tiananmen square events and current modernist and post-modernist photo-based art work. The show presents photo-based work by 16 artists from different disciplines. It is curated by Chinese curator ZHANG Li, based on works published by the art magazine New Photography founded by Beijing artists in the mid-1990's. The magazine was an experimental collaboration between photographers, painters, sculptors, architects, performance, and installation artists in the East District of Beijing. The show was curated for the inauguration of a new artist-founded photographer center in Beijing (June 2007). This is the first presentation of this show outside China.

    Included artists are:ZHUANG Hui, LIU Zheng, GAO Bo, GUAN Ce, JIN Yongquan, QUI Zhijie, AN Hong, RongRong, WANG Zu, ZHAO Liang, JIANG Zhi, ZHENG Guogu, LIU Anping, SAN Mao, and HONG Lei.

    Contemporary Conceptual and Staged Photography - China
    Curator: ZHANG Li, Three Shadows Photography Center, Beijing

    LOCATION: FotoFest Headquarters, 1113 Vine Street, 713-223-5522
    OPENING RECEPTION: Opening night of FOTOFEST2008, Friday, March 7, 2008, 8PM - Midnight. Public is invited.

    Current Perspectives 1999-2008

    These conceptual, mixed-media works are organized as a series of 11 one-person presentations of leading contemporary Chinese artists. Their photo-based works relate to and reflect major aesthetic and social issues in Chinese art and society today: memory, interpretation/appropriation of Chinese art history, conception of self and culture; urbanization and transformation of space; and questions of gender; religion; the public voice and private life. The works are predominantly color, large-scale, staged, constructed, and digitally produced. They include sculpture, installation, and video.

    Included artists are:BAI Yiluo, CANG Xin, CHENG Linyang, XING Danwen, LIU Lijie, LIU Ren, SUN Guojuan, WANG Chuan, WU Gaozhong, YAO Lu, and ZHENG Han.

    Artists: BAI Yiluo; YAO Lu; WANG Chuan; WU Gaozhong
    LOCATION: Williams Tower Gallery - 2800 Post Oak, 713-223-5522

    Artist: CANG Xin
    LOCATION: New World Museum - 5230 Center Street, 713-223-5522(FF) or 713-426-4544(NW)

    Artists: XING Danwen; Zheng Han
    LOCATION: Berring & James Gallery - 805 Rhode Place #500, 713-223-5522(FF) or 713-524-0101(BJG)

    Artists: SUN Guojuan; CHEN Lingyang; LIU Lijie
    LOCATION: Art League Houston - 1953 Montrose Blvd, 713-223-5522(FF) or 713-523-9530(ALH)

    Artist: LIU Ren
    LOCATION: Rice University Media Center - 6100 Main St., Entrance 8 (off University Blvd.) 713-223-5522(FF) or 713-348-4882(Rice)
    OPENING RECEPTION: Monday, March 10, 2008. Call for time. Public is invited.

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