Five large-scale photographs by the Chinese artist Hai Bo will be on view March 27 through Nov. 28 at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
. The photographs are the latest installment in the Sackler's contemporary series, "Perspectives," which focuses on the work of leading contemporary artists from Asia and the Asian diaspora and bridges the gap between the traditional, often separate, roles played by Asian art museums and modern art galleries.
Born in 1962 in Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province in northeastern China, Hai Bo has been returning to his hometown for decades to photograph the familiar places of his youth. As China's cities grow exponentially, the artist looks poignantly at another aspect of large-scale urbanization: the increasingly desolate and aging villages of rural China. The photographs convey a sense of nostalgia for the beauty and vastness of the Chinese landscape.
In a quartet of photographs on view titled "Four Seasons," the artist photographed himself beneath the same tree during each season. Once an untamed place where he used to play as a child, as well as the site of a family tragedy, the tree is now part of a park in a growing city. Also on view is a large-scale print titled "The Northern No. 29," part of a series of works in which the artist captures stunning, enigmatic views of the Jilin landscape.
"Hai Bo's approach to photography allows him to add a certain magic to his work," said Carol Huh, assistant curator of contemporary Asian art at the Freer and Sackler galleries. "By repeatedly visiting his hometown, he evokes personal memories while transforming vast expanses and distant horizons into profoundly moving statements about loss and the passage of time."
Hai Bo's work has been the subject of a number of recent solo exhibitions, including Fondazione Michetti, Italy (2004), as well as numerous group exhibitions, including the 49th Venice Biennale, curated by Harald Szeeman (2001); "Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China" (2004), which featured innovative photo and video art organized by the International Center of Photography (New York) and the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art (Chicago); and "Journeys: Mapping the Earth and Mind in Chinese Art" (2007) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.