Critics’ Picks

Tseng Kwong Chi, East Meets West Manifesto, 1983, C-Print mounted on dibond, 50 x 50".

Tseng Kwong Chi, East Meets West Manifesto, 1983, C-Print mounted on dibond, 50 x 50".

Hong Kong

Tseng Kwong Chi

Ben Brown Fine Arts | Hong Kong
1 Yip Fat Street 202 The Factory
November 20, 2014–January 24, 2015

Ben Brown Fine Arts Hong Kong’s show reveals the unfading relevancy of work by Hong Kong–born, Paris- and Canada-educated Tseng Kwong Chi despite his premature passing in 1990 at the age of thirty-nine. In contrast to the vivacious characters in “Editions from the Mudd Club Divas Ball Gown Show Portfolio” series made in 1981, which features street scenes outside the club, Tseng’s alter ego appears staged and impersonal in work he made in the 1970s and ‘80s, known informally as the “Expeditionary Series” and also as “East Meets West,” Dressed in a Mao suit and reflective sunglasses, Tseng, a self-proclaimed “inquisitive traveler and ambiguous ambassador,” poses as a Chinese dignitary sightseeing, a cable release in hand, in front of architectural landmarks in Europe and the United States, such as the Statue of Liberty. But while a pleasure traveler would be guided by discovery, Tseng’s performed Communist looks away from the monuments with pompous gravitas, a personification of superficial and blind cultural prejudice.

Also on view is his more meditative landscape series that he began in 1986, in which he is seen as an often lost-looking silhouette in dramatic natural vistas, as in Oshima, Japan (Dunes), 1988, where he stands in a sea of sand. Making a point of his Chinese-ness, Tseng appears as the mischievous ambassador of all outsiders, amplifying the cultural quiddity of both persona and monument through performance and melodrama. The result is compelling, civic, and eccentric at once.