Gallery Hopping: Cai Dongdong Turns Photography Into Sculpture at Klein Sun Gallery
The artist breaks new ground.
“Photography isn’t special anymore; it’s too ambiguous,” complained Chinese photographer Cai Dongdong through a translator at a preview of his current exhibition, “Cai Dongdong: Fountain,” at New York’s Klein Sun Gallery.
As a young recruit serving in China’s People Liberation Army, Cai was pressed into service as a portrait photographer, given only a few simple instructions and forced to learn in the field.
As photography became more and more accessible, however, Cai found himself less interested in creating new images, and more concerned with taking a new look at existing ones.
Cai’s most recent body of work is based on old photographs, using both his own images and vintage Cultural Revolution-era photographs and negatives he has collected. “[The photos] were piled up like chicken ribs, so I operated on them, like a surgeon,” said Cai in a statement for his book, Fountain, which features the works in the current show.
By rolling, scratching, or tearing the images, and incorporating sculptural elements, Cai has created visually-compelling works that take photography into the realm of sculpture.
A common element in the series is mirrors, which replace existing areas of the photograph, and create striking reflections. In Practice Shooting, for instance, a woman being trained by a soldier to fire a gun takes aim at herself, suggesting the inherent danger she faces despite the propagandist nature of the original image.
In other works, mirrors replace cut out sections of the photos, creating strange, flashing depths. In Burying Mirrors, Chinese workers can be seen dumping wagons of dirt onto a large lake-like mirror.
The show takes its name from the famed Marcel Duchamp readymade, referencing the enhanced dual meanings that Cai imbues through his unexpected interventions.
“When we are a visitor looking in the mirror, it’s like we’re burying our own images,” explained Cai.
See more works from the exhibition below:
“Cai Dongdong: Fountain” is on view at Klein Sun Gallery, 525 West 22nd Street, New York February 18–March 19, 2016.
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