Sze Tsung Leong
Photographed with a large-format view camera in cities throughout China—including Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Nanjing, Pingyao, and Xiamen—these highly detailed images portray the immense scale of an urban upheaval overwhelming the minute scale of the individual. The dense concentration of visual information in the photographs reveals the contradictions created by an uncertain and fluctuating environment: traditional buildings in the process of being demolished are juxtaposed against the new urban reality about to replace them; seemingly abandoned buildings on the verge of destruction, or in the midst of construction, reveal clues of inhabitation; in historic areas survive more as a result of neglect and isolation rather than intent; and obscured in the midst of expansive, culturally ambivalent spaces, small Chinese script on indistinct signs serves as the only hint that these environments are in China.
While these photographs portray a specific period in the history of China, they also parallel and evoke the experience of cities throughout the world that have been affected by other forms of drastic upheaval: the extensive reconfiguration of Paris in the mid-nineteenth century by Georges-Eugène Hausmann to accommodate the new middle class; the wartime reduction to rubble of European cities; the listless spaces resulting from the postwar suburban attenuation of American cities.
Sze Tsung Leong (American and British, born Mexico City 1970) is an artist based in New York. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery, among others. His work has been exhibited internationally, including “An Atlas of Events” at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, the 2006 Havana Biennial, “New Photography” at the High Museum of Art, the 2004 Taipei Biennial, and “Painting as Paradox” at Artists Space. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2006, his book History Images was published by Steidl. His work is represented by Yossi Milo Gallery in New York.