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August 8, 2014

Chinese Art Stripped Bare

Ren Hang, the Beijing Photographer Shooting Down Taboo

“I’d love to have sex with all the models that I’ve shot—the urge to shoot nudity probably originates from my own impulses,” says prolific Chinese photographic artist Ren Hang, whose entwined and contorted sculptural compositions are often derided as obscene in his own country. “Most of the subjects are friends of mine,” the Beijing-based Changchun native adds. “I just want to organize parties, not tell a story: everything you see in the pictures you can find in real life.” Today’s series of portraits are featured in his alluring, disinhibited first solo exhibition Physical Borderline at Beijing’s Three Shadows +3 Gallery. Hang’s seemingly nihilistic exploration captured over the past six years—and featured in Purple magazine and Rencontres d'Arles Photography Festival in France—examines the confines of our bodies, or in his own words, “the lack thereof.” The artist’s courageous pursuit has not gone unnoticed in the West, but his unwavering passion for unrestrained nudity is still a taboo subject in China. “Being routinely banned here has made me feel numb towards any change,” says Hang of the exhibition’s unapologetic attempt to penetrate the uptight censorship culture of his home country.

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Spotlight

Dickie Landry: New York Stories

Memories of Manhattan From Philip Glass and Robert Rauschenberg's Favorite Saxophonist

Musician, photographer, artist and farmer are some the guises formed by the inimitable Dickie Landry in Tabitha Denholm’s portrait that comes on the eve of a new exhibition of his pictorial work. Landry moved to New York in 1969, becoming an integral member of the Philip Glass Ensemble and part of SoHo's burgeoning avant-garde art scene alongside artists Robert Rauschenberg, fellow Louisiana-native Keith Sonnier and Gordon-Matta Clark, co-founder of experimental gastronomic clubhouse Food with Landry’s then wife, Tina Girouard. “Dickie was really ahead of his time,” says Denholm of the saxophonist who collaborated with David Byrne, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, and whose restlessness saw him branch out into black-and-white photography and abstract painting. “It was his Louisiana upbringing that taught him to do what’s necessary to survive and he took that with him as a model to New York. These days it’s pretty normal to do several things at once but at that time being a polymath was quite unusual.” In the early 2000s, Landry returned to his hometown of Cecilia, Louisiana and now resides between his family pecan farm and his apartment in nearby Lafayette, where he is surrounded by the beautiful ephemera of his extraordinarily full life.

Dickie Landry runs at Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, Lafayette, LA from January 14 through May 3.

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Spotlight

Christian Jankowski: Heavy Weight History

The Conceptual Artist Heads to Poland to Create a Monumental New Film

Christian Jankowski came to prominence with thought-provoking work that satirizes reality TV and the media. His latest exhibition, Heavy Weight History, at Lisson Gallery in London, is an installation of photographs and a 30-minute film that documents a group of Polish weightlifters attempting to lift public monuments in Warsaw. In this excerpt from the short, the Berlin-based Jankowski captures a famous Polish TV sports commentator following the sportsmen as they attempt to raise five individual sculptures. There is a political aspect here, touching on communism, masculinity and Poland’s self-image. “Warsaw was a city completely destroyed after the war. It had to find a new identity; maybe that was partly through sculpture,” says the German artist, whose performance pieces have included Art Market TV, in which a man sells artworks at a fair in the style of a home shopping channel presenter. Appropriately, Heavy Weight History also comments on how our view of the past is formed. “When you tell history, you can only have so many sentences. If you repeat and repeat the same perspective it becomes more concrete, not dynamic,” says Jankowski of the curious and often accidentally humorous project. “A good joke connects thoughts that come as a surprise.”

Heavy Weight History runs from January 31 to March 8 at Lisson gallery, London

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