Liu Zheng

Liu Zheng
b. 1969, Wuqiang county, Hebei
Soon after his family moved to Datong in 1987, Liu Zheng headed to Beijing to major in optical engineering at the Beijing Technological Institute. After graduation in 1991, he got a job as a photo-journalist for Workers’ Daily, and was assigned to the cover the coal-mining industry, which he did for more than a year. In 1993 Liu established the Topic Photo Group and began work on the series Countrymen, in which he explored the exoticism of ethnic minorities regions and set the stage for his later tripartite project re-examining ‘China’s People, Myths and History’—the Three Realms series. This was initiated in 1995 together with the publication of a private printed serial entitled New Photo in cooperation with Rong Rong (Lu Zhirong) and Jin Yongquan and dedicated to conceptual photography.
In 1997 Liu left the job at the newspaper for a freelance career, continuing his artistic projects, which soon came to include the Peking Opera series. First shown in a solo show at the Taipei Photo Gallery in 1998, these works are ‘simulated theatrical stills’ (Wu Hong) inspired by the old photo-compositions of 1920s-30s Shanghai and recounted in traditional opera stories like The Legend of the White Snake (Baishezhuan). The vintage flavour suggested by a brownish-antique finish, the static and dramatized postures, and the placement of the subjects on a prearranged studio-stage with a weightless painted backdrop recall a nostalgia for a recent past, while the nudity and uninhibited poses load the works with the texture of contemporary kitsch. Liu Zheng’s sophisticated style and unique technique has won him a part in major art events like the exhibition of ‘Contemporary Chinese Photography’ at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein in Berlin (1997), the Tachikawa Art Festival in Tokyo and New York (1999), the 50th Venice Biennale (2003) and the ICP Triennale, ICP, New York (2003).
Goodman, Jonathan (2000).
‘Human, Demonic and Divine in the Photographs of Liu Zheng’. Art on Paper 4.3 (January–February).
Li, Jiangshu (2003). ‘Liu Zheng he ta de gainian sheyin’ [Liu Zheng and His Conceptual Photography]. Yishu dangdai [Art Today] 2.6:90–3.
Photographers International (2001). ‘The Chinese: Liu Zheng Monograph’, special edition. Photographers International 58.
Wu, Hong (1999). Transience. Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Wu, Hung (2001). ‘Photographing Deformity: Liu Zheng and His Photo Series “My Countrymen”’. Public Culture 3.13:399–427.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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