In 1979 Tseng Kwong Chi put on a thrift store Mao-era suit to enter a "coat-and-tie" restaurant in New York and was mistaken by the maître d' for a Chinese dignitary. The next year he successfully crashed the opening of the Ch'ing dynasty exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Artposing with the rich and famous as a Chinese Communist official. Tseng realized then that he had tapped into a profound themeone that would drive his artistic career for the next eleven years "the pervasive ignorance of Westerners regarding Asia generally and China specifically." Posing at iconic tourist sites, Tseng displayed dramatic camera angles and spatial compressions in his early work. In the mid- to late 1980s, however, he abandoned the use of a cabled shutter release and worked with an assistant. By moving further from the camera and at times almost disappearing into the landscape, Tseng transformed his photographs into modern references to the grand tradition of nineteenth-century American landscape painting. Tseng, who died at forty of AIDS, is also well known for documenting the "street" work of graffiti artist Keith Haring.
Lake Kamloops, British Columbia
Gelatin silver print, 1986
Published summer 1990
Muna Tseng Dance Project Inc., New York City
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