Exposure Award 2020 recipient
Gaotai (Urumqi, Xinjiang) is the first international art center and contemporary art gallery in its region. As a social enterprise, Gaotai aims to promote cross-regional and cross-cultural dialogue between local and international artists through major exhibitions, public forums and other social events.
The gallery was founded by Xing Musa Ma in 2019, who was born and grew up in Xinjiang, has experience studying and working in Beijing, Dubai, Geneva and New York. Musa has a Masters degree in global affairs from Tsinghua University and is a member of Schwarzman Scholars. Gaotai currently represents artists from China and regions along the ancient Silk Road, featuring works related to environmental, cultural and gender concerns.
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In Temporarily Censored Home (2018-2019), Xu covertly created intricately layered photographic installations at his parents’ Beijing home. By inserting an array of photographs, including images from family albums, adverts and editorials he collected as a teenager, plus portraits of him with other gay men, Xu reclaims his childhood home as a space of freedom and rebellion.
In some rooms photographs of varying sizes cover every visible space, while in others oversized prints are draped over furniture or hang from the ceiling. Doorways and windows are replaced with photographs to create dizzying perspectives in which the viewer is led to wonder what is real. These juxtapositions collapse space and time, pointing to the relationship between individual freedom and global political governance while aiming to dissolve the borders of opposition. Through these installations, he claims the conservative home where he came of age as a queer space of freedom and temporary protest.
Discussing the work of Guanyu Xu the judging panel commented: 'Every artist has a "point of origin" for their work, be it experiential, psychological or even subconscious. It is impressive to discover how artists communicate these personal narratives with a creative visual language in unpredictable ways. In Guanyu Xu’s work a large number of images and physical spaces are juxtaposed, interspersed and nested to form a series of sophisticated and complex installation of photographs that collapse the boundaries between time, space, and dimensions. His focus on the conflicts between individuals, family and society raises questions not only around identity and gender but also about race and culture.'
The new work Suspension is created after he experienced four months of lockdown in Chicago due to COVID-19. Utilizing 3D software to recreate the streets of Chicago and Shanghai, and dispersing his photographs as well as collected media images, he constructs a semi-cartographic and semi-architectural space. The dazzling image expresses his powerlessness as an alien in the US during the pandemic, the experience of the deadlock created by political powers, and the reaction to his censored exhibition.
Guanyu Xu, born in Beijing, 1993, is currently based in Chicago. Exploring his complex personal history and identity through his work, Xu bridges the gap between the personal and political, highlighting the disparities and connections between his intersectional experience of the US and his conservative upbringing in China.
He was the recipient of the Fred Endsley Memorial Fellowship in 2015 and the James Weinstein Memorial Fellowship in 2018. He is the winner of numerous awards in 2019 including the Foam Talent Award, the Kodak Film Photo Award. He was also the runner-up in the 2019 Aperture Foundation Portfolio Prize.
His works have been shown internationally and his work can be found in The Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His works have been featured in The New York Times, ArtAsiaPacific, The New Yorker, W Magazine, Aint-Bad Magazine, Harper's Magazine, Musée Magazine, Der Greif and China Photographic Publishing House.
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