Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Real Art Ways this Thursday: cold, hard cash and Creative Cocktail Hour

Real Art Ways
56 Arbor St., Hartford, (860) 232-1006
Daxin Wu: Currency Portraits
June 19—July 13, 2008.
Opening reception and Creative Cocktail Hour on Thurs. June 19, 6—10 p.m.

Press release

Real Art Ways opens an exhibition of photographs, entitled "Currency Portraits," by emerging Chinese artist, Daxin Wu, on Thursday, June 19, 2008, during the monthly Creative Cocktail Hour, from 6—10 p.m. Admission is $10 for the general public, $5 for Real Art Ways members. Gallery hours are Tuesdays through Thursdays, and Sundays, from 2—10 p.m.; and Fridays and Saturdays from 2-11 p.m. The gallery is closed on Mondays. Daxin Wu's exhibit runs through July 13, 2008.

The exhibition, aptly named "Currency Portraits," features close-up photographs of the faces of heads of state from around the world—the United Kingdom, United States, Israel, Japan, India, and Chin—as depicted on their national currency. However, after Wu photographs these portraits, he enlarges them and suspends the photos in blocks of ice. Cracks and hazy shafts of bubbles take shape as the ice freezes, blurring and distorting the images that had originally been rendered with care and respect by the currency engravers.

Thus transformed, the once exacting portraits look wispy, almost ghostly, and thereby visually strip the leaders of the very power their presence on money is intended to convey.

For Wu, the exhibition began as a matter of foreign policy. In 2006, he had seen news of how the United States had forced North Korea to the table for talks about freezing the Asian nation's nuclear weapons program.

"The U.S. was using money as a 'soft weapon' to convince the North Koreans to talk," Wu says. "They froze the money in their accounts in Macao." "And in China, where I'm from," Wu continues, "we call that 'freezing currency.' That gave me an idea."

After living in Japan for eight years, and from friends who traveled elsewhere, Wu had acquired a small collection of international currencies. He decided to immerse different bills in water and, literally, to freeze them, hoping to photograph the result. Wu realized that what he had created was not just something to photograph, but, in fact, a time-sensitive sculpture.

To Wu, the original engravings on the bills were beautiful, "like poetry," he says. The political statement, about "freezing currency" to change political fortunes, allowed him to demonstrate his larger concerns.

"This," Wu says, "is my way of expressing that I'm very worried about this world."


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