Critics’ Picks

View of “Michael Wolf: Information Solutions,” 2016.

View of “Michael Wolf: Information Solutions,” 2016.


Fan Ho and Michael Wolf

M97 Gallery
363 Changping Road, Bldg. 4 1st & 2nd Floor
September 10–November 12, 2016

Having reached an era when the genre of street photography might feel passé, two concurrent solo exhibitions by the Hong Kong–based German photographer Michael Wolf and the preeminent Chinese photographer Fan Ho bring views of urban life in Hong Kong past and present, which succinctly unites the two shows. Fan, who passed away last June at the age of eighty-five, was part of the Chinese diaspora that fled the mainland for Hong Kong in 1949. Fan’s black-and-white gelatin silver prints, from the 1950s to the 1970s, tell a compelling story through the lens of young refugee dealing with the crisis of displacement and assimilation. The title of the exhibition, “On the Stage of Life,” is in keeping with Fan’s dramatic use of light and shadow. At times suggesting the cinematic, his images of daily life—from lonely back streets to bustling city stairways—convey that an older, long-ago Hong Kong will leave an enduring legacy.

Wolf’s “Informal Solutions” fast-forwards the viewer by looking beyond contemporary Hong Kong’s glitzy skyscrapers and megamalls to its disappearing alleyways. Over the past twenty years, Wolf has photographed disparate but familiar everyday objects—industrial gloves, discarded umbrellas, mops, and abandoned plastic or wooden chairs—found during his daily wanderings to create an ongoing series, also titled “Informal Solutions,” 2003–, of individually framed eight-by-ten color prints that he then clusters together in groups of five to eighteen. Included in this tableaux of artifacts are actual objects collected by the artist along the way—small improvised stools and counter weights to secure tarpaulins for temporary shelters—along with looped thirty-second video clips, such as a single fluttering glove tethered to an exhaust fan, presented on a screen no larger than the color prints. Seeing this installation as a form of visual anthropology, Wolf asserts how Hong Kong’s vanishing back-alley street life constitutes an authentic part of the city’s grassroots culture while also documenting survival strategies of the city’s working poor.