Looking Homeward in China: Fortress Besieged

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Many of the events and exhibitions that we share in posts and list on our calendar feature artists, performers, and other talented Chinese who live in New York City.  Beyond Chinatown is excited to sponsor, for the first time, one such exhibition.

China: Fortress Besieged is a group exhibition curated by New York Love Story creator Bai Feng that showcases paintings and photographs by four New York-based Chinese artists Wenjie Han, Xiao Wang, Zhiyue (Will) Wang, and Bai herself.  Although they all presently work professionally as commercial photographers, they have never lost their artistic desire to create.  The dozen works to be displayed at Resobox are connected by the thread of their quests to define China as a homeland and will trigger both nostalgia and curiosity for the audience.

Bai organized the show because she wanted to “give the audience a chance to see how subtle and beautiful Chinese-themed art can be.”  She expressed dismay at western perceptions of what Chinese art is or should be: “It doesn’t have to look like a dress at the Met Ball Gala.  For a Chinese theme, they only know using bright red, gold stuff.”  Echoing Bai’s sentiment, Zhiyue believes that for a work of art to have Chinese style, it does not need to draw upon traditional Chinese imagery.

The title borrows from a French proverb, “Le mariage est une forteresse assiégée, ceux qui sont dehors veulent y entrer, ceux qui sont dedans veulent en sortir.”  It is also the title of a masterpiece in twentieth-century Chinese literature by Qian Zhongshu, which depicts a young Chinese student who studied abroad but eventually made his way back to China in a dramatic voyage.

Somewhat similarly to the fictional character imagined nearly a hundred years ago, these four artists, like many of their generation, left their homeland to find inspiration and freedom in America.  Yet, ironically, they are drawn to China-related themes, unable to escape the places of their loved ones, childhood memories, teenage struggles, and first exposures to art. “Behind some of those art works, there are stories goes back years in our lives,” Bai explained.

Bai’s night walks in Manhattan and Flushing remind her of wandering Beijing alone when she was growing up in China.  The photographs to be shown express a very different sentiment from her New York Love Story.  Bai elaborates, “New York is cruel and sweet for me.  Those love stories are one hundred percent real, and my lonely journeys in the dark city are also very real.  That’s the beauty of NYC.”

Through his paintings, Wenjie expresses mystery and curiosity in architecture and tries to find his place in the environment he is in.  Xiao, who is also a magazine editor, explores what Chinese medicine means to her and considers how it is distinct in the western world.  Zhiyue finds familiarity in the landscapes of the America’s East Coast, and this reminder of places in China inspires elements of fine arts in his fashion photography.

Though from the same country and following similar paths to the United States, each artist’s relationship with China is different, and as they rediscover their connections, they redefine Chinese art.

The exhibition opens on July 30 and runs through August 1 at Resobox, 41-26 27th St., Long Island City.  An opening reception will be held July 30 at 6 PM.  Please RSVP here.

Join the event Facebook page to keep up with updates.

Bai Feng

Xiao Wang

Wenjie Han

Zhiyue (Will) Wang