Photographer Gu Zhongsheng’s (顾忠升 / 顧忠升) first New York solo show Gradually Fog Up, presented by Jing Arts Project, attracted gallery goers from different parts of the city and proved a cold winter night in New York City cannot cease people’s passion for art. In the cozy, bright exhibition space at Ouchi Gallery in Brooklyn, conversations about art and culture mixed with laughter and warm greetings.
Upon entering the gallery, what immediately strikes you about Gu’s works is that they appear more like paintings rather than photographs. Far from realistic depictions of objects or landscapes, his photography embraces the idea of “in-betweens”, a blurring of the boundary between abstraction and realism.
In New York, the artist challenges the typical impression of the Manhattan skyline — long, dense, and dazzling with icons like the Empire State Building, Freedom Tower, and Brooklyn Bridge. Through Gu’s lens, the outlines of buildings and bridges melt into the darkness, leaving a distant trail of diamonds moving silently through an immense black void. The instantly familiar landmarks become a few “brushstrokes” on his minimalist “canvas”. According to Gu, “For those who live in the city for a long time, the outlines might slightly strike them as Manhattan, but for those who don’t, it will be completely abstract.” However, it is because of this uncertainty that the beauty of this work reveals itself. The viewers are left with the decision of whether or not to interpret the work as somewhere they know.
Gu admires Japanese artists such as Hiroshi Sugimoto, and because of his experience living in Japan, he is deeply influenced by Japanese aesthetics. In his Yin and Yang series, he explores the juxtaposition of eternity and transience with pure simplicity. “I want to capture these gasps of light and color, these precious in-betweens that exist only in that instant when the equilibrium of the world flips on its axis. Day and night can never co-exist but right here is where they meet.” The subtle gradation of color in this unique pair of work reminds you of the invisible brushstrokes in color field paintings, and for Gu, light is a paintbrush for capturing the fleeting moments in his life.
In an intriguing black and white portrait, elegant contours seem to outline a classical Greek bust, obscured behind the glare of a glass display case. “Oh, it’s my friend Anna. I took a photo of her when she just recovered from an illness. The film is about 4 by 5 inches, and one day I used my phone to take a picture of the film. That’s the picture.” Gu explains, demystifying the portrait. This technique of combining old film tradition with new digital technology will undoubtedly appeal to those who try to find a balance between the old and the new.
“New York definitely changed my artistic life. After staying in Beijing for over 8 years, I longed for a new place for inspiration. After a road trip from the West Coast to New York, I finally made the decision to come to the States. I went back to China, prepared for a year, and then moved to New York. The city has too much to offer, and I am not tired of it at all,” Gu Zhongsheng says of how he came to New York. The title of the show, Gradually Fog Up, sums up his personal feelings of this long journey. “It is just like one’s eyes are covered, then the fog gradually fades away, and his view becomes clearer and clearer.”
Additional works on view:
Gradually Fog Up is on view at Ouchi Gallery (170 Tillary St, Suite 105, Brooklyn) until February 8 and will continue at Schoolhouse Art Gallery (330 Ellery Street, Brooklyn) from February 12 to March 28.
Lead image: Installation view, Gradually Fog Up, Ouchi Gallery. Photo Credit: Mark Seco
The article was updated to more accurately reflect Gu’s time in Japan and his influences.