I spent nearly a half hour staring at nude photos. I clicked through image after image, unable to tear myself away: a man getting a blow job whilst climbing a tree, an alabaster nude stretched amongst the rushes, a nether region portrait in a pocket mirror frame.
Bare-skinned & barren of apologies are the disrobed youth of Beijing-based photographer/poet Ren Hang’s snapshots of a Chinese subculture not often portrayed. Poetic, funny, playful, & sometimes just downright shocking, Ren’s photographs are small unfettered moments that toe the line between the candid and the staged. Using his friends as subjects, fetishistic moments are softened by an intimacy of impulse, somehow coming off as both hauntingly sincere, & completely obscene. His subjects are unconcealed, exposed to flat light, captured in their most privy of moments, and yet they face the lens with a quiet nonchalance that proves all the more provocative given the world they grew up in.
There has been no proverbial ‘walk in the park’ or ‘slice of cake’ for Ren Hang in his artistic endeavours within his native country; none of the Chinese press will publish his books, most galleries refuse to show his work, and the few with enough daring were repaid in heisted pieces, spit-slicked canvas, and official overtakings. Thankfully, (and not surprisingly given the surging interest in Eastern dissident art as China emerges in the commercial/political/economic spotlight) Ren's work has been lauded in critical acclaim across borders. Which is not to say that he hasn't drawn interest within his own country; his photography has caught the eye of Ai WeiWei, who invited him to show alongside 37 Chinese new wave art scene consorts at the FUCK OFF 2. exhibit this year in the Netherlands. Perversion of the state, and a healthy perversion of the mind- two things that I'm feeling for my mid-week mull-over. Enough with the words- on with the nudity!
FUCK OFF 2. at the Groninger Museum here