NEWS   ·  March 9, 2020

Meet the artists: Yang Yongliang and Chu Chu

Image from Nine Dragons by Yang Yongliang
Yang Yongliang, Still from Nine Dragons, 2018, virtual reality video; 10 min. © Yang Yongliang, Courtesy of the artist.


Guests will experience the past three decades of China’s dynamic development on the walls of the Museum of Photographic Arts. From March 7 through September 20, Out of the Shadows: Contemporary Chinese Photography will take visitors on a journey that will stretch their understanding of photography as an art form.

The nine featured artists challenge traditional aesthetics, local and global histories, and the photographic medium. With experimental artworks like Yang Yongliang’s virtual reality experiences and Chu Chu’s use of photo and calligraphy, these artists have all adopted hybrid artistic practices.

Financial support is provided by the City of San Diego; E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation; Councilmember Chris Cate, City of San Diego, Sixth District; County of San Diego; 21st Century China Center, UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy; Jon Doellstedt; Sony Electronics Inc.; Gail and Ralph Bryan; and the Gardner Bilingual Fund. The Exhibition Support Council is sustained by community leaders like the Elaine Galinson & Herbert Solomon Donor Advised Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation, Karen Kinney, Marion and David Knowles, Gail and Mel Mackler, Julie Lorene Smith, Elizabeth Taft, Marie Tartar and Steve Eilenberg, and Peggy Ann Wallace.

Yang Yongliang: A Vision of Urbanization

Image of Journey to the Dark by Yang Yongliang
Yang Yongliang, Still from Journey to the Dark 2, 2017, 3-channel 4K video; 9:50 min. © Yang Yongliang, Courtesy of the artist.


In his work, Yang Yongliang utilizes digital photography, video and virtual reality while incorporating a style reminiscent of classical Chinese painting. Two of his artworks will be on view at Out of the Shadows, including the virtual reality experience Nine Dragons.

“I had my first contact with VR several years ago … and I immediately thought it was meant to become an art medium,” he told the award-winning independent publication Cool Hunting in 2018.

Yang creates work about contemporary environmental and social issues related to urbanization and industrialization, as seen in Journey to the Dark 2. In 2016, he talked to CNN about witnessing growth in a city.

“…old bridges and towers were being demolished and replaced by just modern city buildings. The growth of the city and fast speed of the growth have a strong impact on my work,” he said. “My work is trying to express witnessing the growth of a city and how tradition is getting replaced by modern architecture and industrialized city lives.”

Chu Chu: The Juxtaposition of Forms

Chu Chu, Tea – Book of Odes, 2010-2019, photography, calligraphy and Chinese ink on paper mounted to silk hanging scroll. © Chu Chu.


Since the 3rd century BCE, the craft of calligraphy has been considered supreme among the visual arts in China. Out of the Shadows artist Chu Chu integrates the art of calligraphy into her photographic works in Whispers of Trees.

Chu Chu told MOPA about her unique hybrid expression.

“Photography is a passionate affair for me. Realized in the instance of a click, it has the sensation of immediacy. On the other hand, when I do calligraphy, I get to express myself and slowly place or hide the written words within the composition.”

Calligraphy not only requires immense skill, but it is also regarded as uniquely revealing of the artist’s character and cultivation. In Whispers of Trees, Chu Chu’s calligraphy is hidden throughout tree branches.

“This act of hiding entrails the act of searching. As you hide your treasure, you also conceal your meaning,” she told the auction house Christie’s in a 2017 video interview.

“I want to seek the origins of Chinese culture through this process– a kind of culture of keeping things hidden,” she said. “In the process of discovery, we can feel the depth and the ideas behind this culture.”

Plan your visit today.


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