Made for the fake-news era, this photographer’s work was ahead of its time

South China Morning Post 發布於 2019年09月20日10:09 • Aaina Bhargava and Christina Ko
  • American Philip-Lorca diCorcia tested the line between fact and fiction in the pre-Photoshop era, as a retrospective at David Zwirner in Hong Kong shows
  • The work of a very different photographer, Qin Yifeng, is featured at White Cube – flat monochromes born of his interest in calligraphy and abstract painting
Detail from Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s work “Marilyn, 28 years old, Las Vegas, Nevada, $30”, features in a retrospective of the American’s work at David Zwirner gallery in Hong Kong. Photo: Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner

You know art photography is having a moment in Hong Kong when David Zwirner devotes its gallery to the medium " and for the third time in less than two years.

Its survey of the work of American Philip-Lorca diCorcia, known for blending staged photography and reportage, has a particular resonance at a time when, in Hong Kong and around the world, the veracity of news photography is constantly being questioned. That diCorcia was testing the line between fact and fiction in the pre-Photoshop era shows his prescience.

The show opens with Heads, experiments in street photography in which diCorcia mimicked studio lighting in a public outdoor setting. The resulting images have the drama of meticulously planned shots but the immediacy of candid photography. Accompanying these are a collage of Polaroids and, in the next room, an early series of staged moments featuring diCorcia's friends and family.

On the lower floor of the gallery is his Hustlers series " portraits of male sex workers in Hollywood that, like the shots in the next room selected from his portfolio of W magazine editorials, have the feeling of moments captured, but are full of melancholy and loneliness.

One of Philip-Lorca diCorcia's images shot for W magazine. Photo: Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner

"He actually opened a lot of doors for photographers working for mass media, way before digital cameras, way before the internet, before Flickr, during the time people were trying to push forward the photographic vocabulary," says Leo Xu, the gallery's Hong Kong director. "It's ahead of those 'alternative pictures' that have been managed (these days) by advertisers, fashion houses."

The show at another big commercial gallery in Hong Kong, White Cube, could hardly be more different. Shanghai artist Qin Yifeng's monochrome images, hung on grey-washed walls, compress the space between objects near and distant, eliminating depth and perspective.

Qin Yifeng's 2013/09/13 15:05 Thunderstorm. Photo: Courtesy of White Cube and Qin Yifeng

It's an aesthetic Qin, who mastered calligraphy as a child, first explored in abstract painting before he discovered photography. His images 2013/09/13 15:05 Thunderstorm and 2017/06/13 17:35 Rain are good examples of his examination of spatial relations.

He also features photographs of furniture, mostly items from his collection of Ming dynasty pieces, in which he highlights the damage and decay they have suffered. This is evident in works such as 2017/05/21 12:10 Cloudless. (Qin takes as the title for his pictures the date and time they were taken.)

"I take advantage of intense natural light. Usually my composition is based on the inherent functional form of the object. I place traces of decay in significant positions. It's extracted as an abstract element," Qin says.

Qin's 017/05/21 12:10 Cloudless. Photo: Courtesy of White Cube and Qin Yifeng

In addition to these shows, the 10 Chancery Lane gallery in Hong Kong has a show, "Skew", featuring stills from Chinese performance artist Xiao Lu, and another gallery, Blindspot, is showing works by Hong Kong artists South Ho and Luke Ching. The pair explore the impact of violent storms on the city as a metaphor for current events as Hong Kong endures waves of protest.

The choice of a photography retrospective to launch David Zwirner's autumn season underlines the gallery's commitment to pushing the medium, and highlights market interest in photography.

Xu says: "Since the opening of the Hong Kong gallery (last year), we've actually been committed to introducing photographers to Asia, so we've done already two solo presentations of photographers, Wolfgang Tillmans and Thomas Ruff."

He adds: "Before we had a gallery here, we could only understand the Asian market from afar, so the perception was not very precise, and we underestimated people's appreciation and preferences."

Philip-Lorca diCorcia, until October 12, David Zwirner, 5-6/F, H Queen's, 80 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong, Tuesday " Friday: 11am-7pm. Tel: (852) 2119 5900

Qin Yifeng, Negative Reading | Reading Negatives, until November 16, White Cube Hong Kong, 50 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong, Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-7pm. Tel (852) 2592 2000

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