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Photography and Chinese ink painting meld in contemporary exhibition
Michael Cherney (American, b. 1969) and Arnold Chang (American, b. 1954), Borders, 2013. Photographic inkjet print and ink on paper. Lent from the Collection of Arnold Chang and Michael Cherney, R2014.4.5.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- When Chinese ink painter Arnold Chang and photographer Michael Cherney met for the first time in 2007, they recognized a compatibility between Chang’s personal brushwork and Cherney’s granular photographs, which recall the aesthetics of ink painting. Since 2009, they have been creating joint works that strive to bridge the gap between the traditions of Chinese ink painting and the concerns of contemporary art. Twenty of their works are showcased at the Asian Art Museum in the exhibition From Two Arises Three : The Collaborative Works of Arnold Chang and Michael Cherney , on view from July 15, 2014, through March 1, 2015.

Although both Chang and Cherney are New York-born, the artists’ contrasting backgrounds encapsulate a dialogue between traditional and contemporary approaches to art, as well as between Asian and Western artistic modes. Chang is a Chinese American ink painter who studied with the “Two Wangs,” Wang Jiyuan (1895–1974) and C. C. Wang (1907–2003), in New York, as well as with art historian James Cahill (1926–2014) in Berkeley. Cherney, on the other hand, is a self-taught photographer who has lived in China since 1991. His work is informed by his admiration for the materials and themes of traditional ink painting.

While their collaboration takes a variety of forms, typically Cherney travels to historic sites in China and takes black-and-white 35 mm photographs. Using a fast film, he purposely brings the grain of the photograph to the forefront. At a certain point, the grain of the photographs begins to resemble the brushstrokes of painting. He then prints the image on Chinese xuan paper—normally used not for photography but for works of ink— and he passes it along to Chang. Chang expands the photographic image into a larger work by means of the brush.

Highlights of the exhibition include the collaborative artworks Huangshan , Borders , After Li Sixun 2 , and After Wang Meng . The exhibition also features noncollaborative works by Chang and Cherney.

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