Galerie Edwynn Houk is pleased to announce an exhibition of five large-scale photographs by Chen Jiagang (b. 1962), presenting the artist for the first time here in Switzerland. The show will take place from 20 March to 7 June 2014.
Between 2006 and 2009, the Three Gorges Dam in China’s Hubei Province has been completed, becoming the contested symbol of this country’s economic ambition and its subsequent challenges, folding into one a source of renewable energy production and environmental destruction, iconoclastic development and awe-inspiring technological feats, economic promise and massive human displacement.
Chen Jiagang, who was born in Chongqing, the largest municipality in western China with some 30 million inhabitants, sought to document the rapid changes at the Yangtze River, trying to negotiate between what he is able to capture with his view camera and his own childhood memories of the region. Consequently, a profound sense of loss and unease permeate his photographs. Throughout his work, smog and fog have been reoccurring themes, representing a formal device that uses atmospheric perspective not only to picturesque ends, but also as a metaphor for less than transparent economic, political and environmental developments in present-day China.
Another signature element in Jiagang’s photographs is the placement of a lone, beautiful woman or two, often dressed in a traditional cheongsam, within the panoramic wide-angle shot, who “serve[s] as a form of faith and work[s] as a catalyst,” according to the artist. Yet, in some of the more recent images, these women have almost disappeared in scale, as if to emphasize the gloomy and seemingly dystopian nature of the urban scenes depicted. In the end, Chen Jiagang’s work poses the rather rhetorical question whether unfettered progress can sustain a livable future.
Born in 1962 in Chongqing, Chen Jiagang began his career as a celebrated architect and real estate developer before making the transition to photography. In 1999, he was named one of twelve “Outstanding Young Architects” by the United Nations. Jiagang is the founder of the Sichuan Upriver Museum, the first private museum in China and the author of Third Front (Timezone 8 Limited, 2007). He currently lives and works in Beijing.