TACA SUI: GROTTO HEAVENS
Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening of Taca Sui: Grotto Heavens. This is the artist’s third solo exhibition at the gallery. In the five years since his first exhibition, Odes (2013), Taca has traveled extensively throughout China in search of remote locations that resonate in Chinese history through their association with important religious and philosophical traditions. In Odes, he presented a body of work that was inspired by the ancient poetic heritage of China, specifically the Book of Odes (Shi Jing). Laden down with his heavy equipment, like pioneering photographers of the nineteenth century he traveled to remote locations that were associated with these ancient lyrics, photographing landscapes and evocative details that were remarkable for their poetic intensity.
During the next two years in preparation for the exhibition Steles: Huang Yi Project (2015), his theme was the stone steles that have played such a crucial role in the documentation of the history of China. Here he was inspired by the late Qing dynasty imperial bureaucrat Huang Yi (1744 – 1802) who in his leisure time was also a dedicated amateur archaeologist. In planning his own trips, Taca consulted Huang Yi’s diaries, Diary on Visiting Steles near Mount Song and the Luo River and Diary on Visiting Historical Steles from Jining to Tai’an.
In 2017, Taca embarked on yet another extended journey, this time in search of the grotto-heavens that with the Five Great Mountains occupy a primordial position within the sacred geography of China. Described by scholar Franciscus Verellen as “places of refuge, initiation, and of transcendental passage, paradisial microcosms,” these sacred sites (dongtian) were particularly important in Daoist ritual and cosmography, and were first mentioned in the revelations of Shangqing around 360 CE. They were organized systematically in the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) by Sima Chengzhen (647-735) and Du Guangting (850-933) and are now divided into two categories, the ten greater grotto heavens and the thirty - six lesser grotto heavens.
Now that he has learnt how to drive, Taca was away from his home in Beijing for many months, visiting the Mausoleum of the King of Chu, Songshan Mountain, and Zhongtiao Mountian Wangwu in Henan province; Shangluo, Taibai Mountain, Qinling, Ankang and Hangzhong in Shaanxi province; and Yichang, Shiyan, Shennongjia, and Enshi in Hubei Province. Two more expeditions are planned in the future to complete his survey.
The exhibition is divided into two parts, one of which is devoted to the caves in which the grottoes are situated and the other to a new iteration of his Steles project. In the black and white photographs that convey the poetry of the caves, the mysterious interiors suggest the sense of awe they inspired in the pilgrims who visited them in full expectation of achieving powerful insights into another world. Using a contemporary analogy, Taca has compared these grotto heavens to wormholes, passageways through space-time that theoretically would permit journeys as mysterious as those achieved in grotto-heavens. Presented in a smaller scale at one end of the gallery, Taca revisits his Steles: Huang Yi Project, this time focusing on one specific image from the original set of photographs, entitled Stele by Zheng Jixuan. Dividing the image into 35 individual sections, each part is presented as a separate photograph, appearing as semi-abstracted landscapes themselves, or ‘bird’s eye view’ images of mountain terrain.
Among contemporary photographers of his generation Taca is unusual in his overriding interest China as it used to be, not as it exists today. There are virtually no references to the present or even the recent past, the exceptions being the occasional appearance of forlorn relics of past devotional practices left behind in these caves. Far from being a documentary photographer, however, bringing back reports from remote areas, he uses photography as a way of establishing a rapport between his own unique vision and the sparse evidence he finds in his travels of long-gone and largely forgotten practices, far from the concerns of the great majority of the inhabitants of a newly prosperous China. His preference for the unassuming and the overlooked, the acceptance of impermanence, can be compared with the concept of wabi-sabi which played such an important role in the development of Japanese aesthetics.
Taca’s work has entered the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Asia Pacific Museum in Pasadena, CA.
PIXY LIAO: OPEN KIMONO
Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening of Pixy Liao: Open Kimono. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Born and raised in Shanghai, China, Pixy Liao received her MFA in photography from the University of Memphis in 2008. It was within this completely new and foreign environment that she first began working as an artist, exploring everyday life in Memphis through a series of ‘American landscapes’. It was also in Memphis that she met her boyfriend-turned-muse Moro – inspiring the body of work that she has become best known for, called Experimental Relationship. The ongoing project is a staged documentation of their relationship, now spanning over 12 years, in which Liao creates various intimate, playful, and witty tableaux that often place her in a position of power over Moro, in a subtle reversal of gender roles.
The artist states, “As a woman brought up in China, I used to think I could only love someone who is older and more mature than me, who can be my protector and mentor. Then I met my current boyfriend, Moro. Since he is 5 years younger than me, I felt that whole concept of relationships changed, all the way around. I became the person who has more authority & power.” Open Kimono presents a selection from the latest iteration of Experimental Relationship, with most of the photographs on view taken in 2018 while the couple were traveling through their home countries China and Japan. As the title of the exhibition suggests, several of the images portray both artist and muse in traditional Japanese dress, although the intimate settings and sensual imagery take their inspiration from Japanese female Yakuza films rather than feudal Japan.
Alongside her photographs, Liao presents a new series of Risographs that were created during a recent residency at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. Risographs take their name from the Riso Kagaku Corporation, which manufactured a digital duplicator that automated a printing process similar to silk screen printing. It was released in Japan in 1986. Liao embraced the unpredictable method of printing, deconstructing the imagery from her existing photos into simple lines of color, experimenting with offset printing and a simplified color palette.
Located at one end of the gallery is a golden ladder on which visitors can climb to view Liao’s installation Temple for Her. The piece is a part of the artist’s larger conceptual series "Evil Women Cult", an imaginary cult that worships all of the “evil female leaders” in history. This particular piece is dedicated to Wu Zetian (624-705 CE), the only female emperor in the history of China. Within Liao’s miniature ‘temple’ is a pool of blood within the shape of a woman, a red staircase, a phallic throne, a pair of golden rolling eyes and a Chinese character Wu created for herself as her name, Zhao, which is a combination of two characters: "clear" and "sky." The temple is inspired by the lonely path the Empress took on her way to the pinnacle of power. The miniature format for this installation was created in conjunction with Flyweight, a bookshelf-sized project space located within the home of artists Clare Torina and Jesse Cesario, and has been re-staged for this exhibition.
Pixy Liao is a recipient of NYFA Fellowship in photography, Santo Foundation Individual Artist Award, Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival Madame Figaro Women Photographers Award, En Foco's New Works Fellowship and LensCulture Exposure Awards. She has been a resident at University of Arts London, Pioneer Works, Light Work, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Center for Photography at Woodstock, and Camera Club of New York. Liao’s photographs have been exhibited internationally, including He Xiangning Art Museum (China), Museum of Sex (NY), and Asia Society (Houston). She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Both exhibitions until April 27, 2019
Chambers Fine Art
522 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011, USAUntil April 27, 2019