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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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For Ann

Lawrence Weiner Narrates Director Erik Madigan Heck's Poignant Farewell to Ann Demeulemeester

With feet planted in the shallows of the Pacific Ocean, American photographer and filmmaker Erik Madigan Heck captures the rolling waves of Venice Beach, California, in today’s Super 8 tribute to Belgian designer Ann Demeulemeester. Entitled The Sea, the meditative short features a narration by artist Lawrence Weiner, whose baritone recital of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Marianne Moore’s “A Grave” adds a tender note to a collaboration started in 2011. “I had made four films in the past as gifts to Ann and this seemed like the appropriate finale to that series,” says Heck, who has shot for Comme des Garçons, Valentino and Mary Katrantzou. “The pieces came together in the past few months, coincidentally just as Ann announced her departure from fashion.” Heck first approached the post-minimalist vanguard Weiner to pose for him wearing Demeulemeester’s Fall 12 collection for his “Artist As Muse” series for A Magazine Curated By, connecting the iconic Antwerp Six designer with one of her favorite artists. The New York-based photographer later captured Weiner’s mural “Iron & Gold in the Air Dust & Smoke on the Ground” in his third film for Demeulemeester. “Ann showed me that fashion could function as an art form,” explains Heck, founder of publications Nomenus Quarterly and the forthcoming No Photos Please. “Growing up in Minneapolis, Lawrence had a large text mural on the side of the Walker Art Center, which we drove past on my way to school. It was one of the first works of art that I internalized daily before I even understood it as art.” And what will Demeulemeester fill her time with now she has departed her beloved career. “I love my gardens,” she says. “They are alive, so there is always something to do.”

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Trick of the Trade

An Abstract Ode to Photographic Craft from Michael Bodiam

It’s impossible to look at a set of images without bringing yourself into it. The argument you had with your partner that morning, the flighty thought of hooking up with your confidante at Art Basel Miami or the inescapable fact that this Christmas is your turn with the in-laws. Michael Bodiam’s series The Tools We Use invites you to step on the merry-go-round of synaptic thought. What are we looking at? A Takashi Murakami origami monster? The set for Tron: Legacy II? A 3D dancefloor? Our minds try to make sense of the images, whether the curled photographic paper makes you think of Yves Klein’s “1959 Untitled Monochrome” or simply a stolen kiss; whether the smoke billowing out of a curtain reminds you of a forbidden cigarette you sucked on surreptitiously. Bodiam stumbled upon the subject matter while looking for something to photograph with art director Yarra Jones.  “When you try to shoot something that’s commercially relevant, you need an object,” he says. “I soon realized, I had an enormous collection of design items, in the form of the photographic equipment that I spend my days with. We had what we needed already.”

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