San Antonio, Texas. ART Magazine.
On a trip to Lishui City in the Zhezhiang Province, Wenzhou, and Beijing, China, five Texas photographers (Ricardo Romo, Ansen Seale, Joel Salcido, Peter Brown, and Al Rendon) were invited to exhibit their work as part of the 14th Annual China International Photographic Art Exhibition (November 2 – 10, 2011). This cultural exchange not only provided an opportunity for these visual artists to share their own experiences of Texas culture with their Chinese counterparts, but also to capture and express their own visions of Chinese life and culture. The resulting exhibition—Texas Photographers: Descriptions of China—is on display at UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures through May 27, 2012.
From among the thousands of images available, Arturo Infante Almeida, curator for this exhibition and The University of Texas at San Antonio Art Collection, selected the 50 works that he felt captured “the mixture of tradition and change that is modern China.” For example, rather than depicting the typical tourist image of a soldier standing in front of the portrait of Chameleon Mao in Tiananmen Square, located at the center of Beijing, Peter Brown’s Entrance to the Forbidden City: Peace Girl, Soldier and Mao reinvents the scene by capturing a young girl in modern yellow jacket giving the universal symbol for “victory” or peace with her two fingers. Likewise, Al Rendon captures contemporary China depicting two young adults in the 798 Art District of Beijing in his piece Welcome to China.
Romo brings an historian’s perspective (Ph.D. History, UCLA), documenting the working classes in their everyday activities, such as young artists at the theater or vegetable vendors at the Lishui City market. In these images, one can glean a glimpse into the person’s everyday life. Seale uses slitscan photography, to demonstrate what he saw as Chinese life and culture by presenting images that reveal a passage of time rather than a single instance or moment in time.
During the photographers’ visit, concerns arose over the fact that they would be capturing the same subject matter, but Almeida reassured the artists that “each photographer has their own eye.” Indeed, at a local theater in Zhu Long (Province of Zhejiang), Salcido captured a striking image of an actor in character and dressed in garb from the Tang Dynasty; Romo’s depiction of a young girl in Zhu Long Performer appears to divulge the inner person rather than the façade assumed by an actor, who is ready for performance.
The opening reception of Texas Photographers: Descriptions of China on May 17 at UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures, will reveal a combination of larger than life images, a traditional art gallery featuring the photographers’ work, a video of the photographs, and a special presentation in the Dome Theater with additional images not on display. This reception, which is free and open to the public, provides the opportunity for the visitor to catch glimpses of modern China and to meet the photographers presenting these visions.