Groundbreaking Photogram and Camera Obscura Photography at the de Young
Exhibition dates: May 26, 2007—September 30, 2007
San Francisco, May 10, 2007—Chinese photographer Shi Guorui holds his first solo exhibition in this country at the de Young Museum. Shi Guorui: Reproduction and Refashioning features photographs made using materials and techniques that predate the lens camera. Based in Beijing’s 798 Art District, a contemporary art epicenter, Shi Guorui has established himself in the vanguard of 21st-century photography. His work challenges perceptions through image reversal, high contrast, extreme depth of field, and scale.
Shi Guorui: Reproduction and Refashioning includes over 25 photograms, a pre-camera method of imaging by placing objects on light-sensitized photo paper and exposing it to light, and four monumental camera obscura photographs created with room-size pinhole cameras during Shi Guorui’s FOR-SITE FOUNDATION residency in 2006. The FOR-SITE FOUNDATION, an organization dedicated to art that investigates the concept of place, organized camera shoots in the de Young tower, on Alcatraz Island, at Donner Pass, and in front of the famous Hollywood sign to capture views of iconic sites that have become historically symbolic reference points. “Shi Guorui’s use of the camera obscura and the photogram is more than the appropriation of optical technologies that precede the era of lens photography,” says Daniell Cornell, Director of Contemporary Art Projects and curator of the Collection Connections series. “It is a deliberate attempt to reintroduce the elements of time and place into iconic images.”
Shi Guorui is quoted in the New York Times saying “Early on I was interested in these technical details, but what is important to me now is the process.” His particular process is deliberately slow and intuitive. Camera obscuras are constructed on-site and the exposure times run several hours. When asked about precise exposure times Shi Guorui replies “I don’t need a watch. It’s intuition. I have acquired a feeling for the darkness.”
The Collection Connections series presents new works that aim to reinterpret traditional objects from the de Young’s permanent collections. The contemporary artists working in this space create installations that transform the conventional experience of museum viewers. For each project, artist and curator draw inspiration from the permanent collection, offering nontraditional connections that provide visual and educational opportunities to explain, interpret, and recontextualize the art objects on display throughout the museum Through these projects, visitors are given a window into the ways that artists and cultural institutions construct and disseminate knowledge about historical understanding and current attitudes.
Reproduction and Refashioning and Shi Guorui’s temporary residency to produce the photographs are the result of a partnership between the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the California-based FOR-SITE FOUNDATION. Collection Connections is generously funded by the Annenberg Foundation.
de Young Visitor Information
The de Young Museum showcases American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, art from Central and South America, the Pacific and Africa. Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 9:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Friday 9:30 a.m.–8:45 pm. Closed Mondays. Admission: $15 adults; $12 seniors; $11 youths 13-17 and students with college I.D. Members and children under 12 are free. The first Tuesday of every month is free; special exhibition fees, if any, still apply. Information: www.deyoungmuseum.org, www.famsf.org