Tseng Kwong Chi

Self Portraits 1979 - 1989


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Includes 100 black and white plates with essays by Kenny Scharf, Lilly Wei, Dan Cameron and Muna Tseng.


Tseng Kwong Chi originally conceived the idea for the series shortly after Nixon's historic trip to China in 1972. Responding to the unfulfilled promise of greater openness between the two nations, Tseng dressed in a Mao suit he bought in a thrift shop and donned reflective sunglasses to become an 'ambiguous ambassador.' Cast in his new persona, Tseng inserted himself into the American landscape, touring the nation's most popular travel destinations, from California's Disneyland to Washington, DC's Lincoln Memorial. Alternating between a rigid vertical stance and relaxed, activated poses, Tseng related his body to the surrounding environs and created an artistic dialogue, one that pitted the architectonic tailoring of the Mao suit and the chiseled, yet anonymous, features of the Chinese face against the architectural iconography of the American landscape. The photographs both parody and indulge in the genuinely American appetite for imitation and kitsch and presage critical interest in architecture as an art object as well as appropriationist concerns with imitation and authenticity. Many of the photographs resemble and playfully parody the typical souvenir snapshot. But for each composition, Tseng combined light, location, and even the stray tourist to produce dramatic, crystalline, silver-gelatin prints.