“RongRong & Inri: Three Begets Ten Thousand Things”

by Mike Hamilton

Staff Writer

Shiseido Gallery
Closes Aug. 14

In the past decade, the popularity and price of Chinese contemporary artworks have risen exponentially, as the Chinese government became more tolerant toward experimental artwork, allowing it to be shown in museums.

Now the government has embraced the art scene as a way to embody an image of a 21st-century, China.

Beijing-based husband-and-wife duo RongRong & Inri are among several artists to have ridden high on the nation’s artistic wave. RongRong met Inri, a Japanese artist, 10 years ago, and they have since made a name for themselves with their depictions of an evolving China. They often appear in their own photographs and document personal experiences as part of their social commentary.

RongRong began his career photographing the artist community of Beijing’s East Village (named after Manhattan’s bohemian art district in New York), which became a hub for contemporary art in China during the 1990s. He met Inri, who was at that time a portrait photographer, at one of his exhibitions in Japan in 1999. Although they couldn’t speak each other’s language, they fell in love, and Inri moved to Beijing where they married the following year.

Their collaborative work reveals an intense intimacy, with their debut series of images, “In Fujisan, Japan,” depicting the couple, stripped naked, atop Japan’s iconic peak. While this series — some of which are on display in this exhibition — and subsequent works have been shown in galleries and art festivals around the world, RongRong & Inri have recently garnered more attention for the establishment of Beijing’s Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, a nonprofit center dedicated to contemporary photography and video art.

This exhibition brings together highlights of the couple’s work to date, including their “Caochangdi” series that documents their expanding family with a series of shots outside their family home. Also on display are a selection of photos from the “Three Shadows” collection, which retells the trials and tribulations of constructing the art center.

It is fascinating to observe how the couple have matured from their euphoric love-induced frivolity on Mount Fuji to the depiction of Inri’s relocation to China and her struggles with cultural differences, culminating in images of the couple’s three children being brought up in Beijing. The viewer is left on tenterhooks, waiting for the next installment of their life story.

Shiseido Gallery is open 11 a.m-7 p.m., closed Mon.; admission free. For more information, visit www.shiseido.co.jp/gallery.