scp-photo

Shi Guorui, Ab/Sense-Pre/Sense

Coming to Albuquerque Museum October 2022. Shi Guorui’s exhibition "Ab/Sense-Pre/Sense" at Albuquerque Museum presents spectacular landscape photographs up to 15-feet wide, created using giant camera obscuras, that pay homage to the landscapes and legacy of Thomas Cole (1801-1848), the artist known for launching America’s first major art and landscape movement, now known as the Hudson River School of painting.

 

On view October 8, 2022–February 12, 2023

Shi Guorui, Kaaterskill Falls, Catskill Mountains, New York, July 26-28, 2019, 2019, unique camera obscura gelatin silver print, collection of Rich Reitknecht, image courtesy of Shi Guorui

Shi Guorui, Kaaterskill Falls, Catskill Mountains, New York, July 26-28, 2019, 2019, unique camera obscura gelatin silver print, collection of Rich Reitknecht, image courtesy of Shi Guorui 

 

The exhibition was organized by the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Additional support is provided by the City of Albuquerque Department of Arts & Culture and the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.

 

Shi Guorui’s exhibition Ab/Sense-Pre/Sense at Albuquerque Museum presents spectacular landscape photographs up to 15-feet wide, created using giant camera obscuras, that pay homage to the landscapes and legacy of Thomas Cole (1801–1848), the artist known for launching America’s first major art and landscape movement, now known as the Hudson River School of painting. Ab/Sense-Pre/Sense is presented simultaneously with three other exhibitions featuring historic and contemporary artists that engage the natural world through diverse depictions of the landscape: Thomas Cole: Memory and Inspiration, Kiki Smith: From the Creek, and Nicola López and Paula Wilson: Becoming Land.

To create the artwork for the exhibition, Shi Guorui retraced Cole's footsteps into the landscape and built life-size camera obscuras on location in order to make direct, extended, time-lapse exposures of these places in nature today. This included converting a 20-foot box truck into a camera obscura and building 20-foot-wide pinhole camera tents within the landscape. Using this centuries-old technology, Shi Guorui created new photographs of the iconic sites, painted by Cole, as found today in New York's Catskill Mountains, such as Catskill Creek, Kaaterskill Falls, North-South Lake, and Sunset Rock. These sites are made accessible through the Hudson River School Art Trail, an innovative outdoor program created by the Thomas Cole Site that connects visitors with the places in nature that Thomas Cole painted.

The box truck and tent camera obscuras (Latin for "dark room") that Shi Guorui constructs operate like giant cameras. Light is reflected into the room through a small hole that projects a direct image onto light-sensitive photographic paper. As with time-based art, the artist remains inside the camera during the entire exposure, which may last hours or even days. The resulting unique gelatin silver print can be up to 15 feet wide and has a depth of field that the human eye could not otherwise register and see on its own, showing both near and far elements of the landscape in sharp focus. Shi Guorui is interested in how they are "faithful portraits of pure light and time" and emphasize the timelessness and sweeping expanse of each place. Shi Guorui’s contemporary images draw upon both ancient Chinese landscape traditions and also forge direct connections to American landscape painting, reflecting Cole’s legacy and the natural landscape today.

Thomas Cole used a camera obscura as a tool to frame the landscape and define the composition for his paintings. One of only a few photographers working today to use a giant camera obscura, Shi Guorui uses this ancient optical device to create monumental landscape panoramas. He chose this process to slow down time as a direct response to the frenetic pace of contemporary China and in contrast to our digital moment, where hundreds of millions of images are instantly uploaded to Facebook every day. In his slowed-down technique, only that which is not fleeting, that which endures over time, can be seen.

Shi Guorui, who built his own studio in Catskill, NY, is inspired not only by Cole's paintings but also by Cole’s writing, including his proto-environmentalist work, “Essay on American Scenery” (1836), and the unique history of this landscape. The photographic interpretations respond as much to the literal light, landscapes, and objects refracted through the lens, as they do to memory and the passage of time. He perceives the 171-year gap between his life and Thomas Cole’s as very short in comparison to the longer history of art. Like Cole, Guorui is fascinated by cycles, history, and time. Although working in different centuries, both artists wrestle with the impact of development, loss, and how to balance the built and natural worlds.

The exhibition was organized by the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and is curated by Kate Menconeri, Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, Contemporary Art, and Fellowship. A full-color print catalogue accompanies the exhibition and includes an exclusive interview with the artist.

“This ambitious and dynamic photographic project offers new ways to see and consider the landscapes that inspired Thomas Cole,” said Elizabeth B. Jacks, Executive Director of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. “Guorui is not only connecting 1825 with 2019 but also the traditions of landscape art from ancient China to contemporary America.”

“This exhibition explores landscape, history, and art in a cross-cultural exchange,” said Kate Menconeri, Chief Curator of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Presenting Shi Guorui’s work in conversation with Thomas Cole’s “connects two landscape traditions that each redefined how a nation was seen and offer a chance to consider our relationship to the natural world today."

"Time and space are sacred realities,” said Shi Guorui. "I am continually intrigued by the things that influence people and society to develop – by what allows life to go on. For an artist, it is a new experience as well as a challenge to leave the culture they are accustomed to, and to contemplate the future of their art from a different point of view, from another perspective.”

The exhibition expands upon and was inspired by Shi Guorui’s site-specific exhibition Ab/Sense-Pre/Sense, originally presented in OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole, a series of curated contemporary artist installations presented within the historic home and studios of the artist Thomas Cole. Operating from the concept that all art is contemporary, the program activates conversations between artists across the centuries and is collaborative by nature. Exhibitions and artworks have ranged from those that literally reference Cole’s iconic works to those that expand on issues and themes relevant to Cole, including art, landscape, history, and balancing the built and natural worlds. OPEN HOUSE projects shed light on the connections between nineteenth century American art and our contemporary moment.

 

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Shi Guorui is internationally recognized for his giant camera obscura photographs. His projects have included panoramic images of the Great Wall of China (2002), Shanghai (2004), Mount Everest (2005), Donner Pass (2006), Hollywood Sign (2006), New York's Times Square (2008), Bird’s Nest of New Beijing (2008) and Hong Kong (2015). His work has been featured in exhibitions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The de Young Museum in San Francisco, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, TX, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, among other museums in North America, Europe, and Asia. He is represented by 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong. Originally based in Beijing, China, Shi Guorui now has a studio and home in Catskill, New York.

 

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site

Visit The Thomas Cole National Historic Site website

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is an international destination presenting the original home and studios of the artist and early environmentalist Thomas Cole (1801-1848). Cole founded the first major art movement in the United States, now known as the Hudson River School of landscape painting. Located on 6 acres in the Hudson Valley, the site includes the 1815 Main House; Cole’s 1839 Old Studio; the reconstructed 1846 New Studio building; and panoramic views of the Catskill Mountains. It is a National Historic Landmark and an affiliated area of the National Park System. The Thomas Cole Site’s activities include guided and self-guided tours, special exhibitions of both 19th-century and contemporary art, print publications, lectures, extensive online programs, school programs, the Cole Fellowship, free community events, and innovative public programs such as the Hudson River School Art Trail—a map and website that enable people to visit the places in nature that Cole painted—and the Hudson River Skywalk, a new scenic walkway connecting the Thomas Cole Site with Frederic Church’s Olana over the Hudson River. The goal of all programs at the Thomas Cole Site is to enable visitors to find meaning and inspiration in Thomas Cole’s life and work. The themes that Cole explored in his art and writings—such as landscape preservation and our conception of nature as a restorative power—are both historic and timely, providing the opportunity to connect to audiences with insights that are highly relevant to their own lives.