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Tseng Kwong Chi
Ambiguous Ambassador
HC 31 x 33 cm.
Nazraeli 2005

In the late 1970s in New York, Joseph Tseng, fresh from Paris art school after a Hong Kong childhood and an adolescence in Canada, chose to don a second-hand Mao suit for a family outing which required formal wear, and was surprised at the reactions the uniform provoked: deference, scorn, curiosity, but never indifference. It was a pivotal moment in the artist's life, transforming him from overseas visitor to formal representative of a different culture. It was also the start of his series of self-portraits in which Tseng Kwong Chi (he reverted to his birth name) posed in front of a wide range of world landmarks and iconic nature sites beloved by snapshot taking tourists, such as the Statue of Liberty, London Bridge, Notre Dame, Disneyland, Canadian Rockies and the Grand Canyon. Always poker-faced, there is no question that this other persona is serious and rigorous in his intent - which is why it is impossible not to smile at these remarkable, sometimes startling, or unbelievably funny images. Tseng Kwong Chi died at age 39 in 1990, but his pictures live on with a timeless resilience. This will be the most complete book of the work to date, which is now shown widely in major museums, including the Shanghai Biennale 2004. New essay by Dan Cameron.

Rigorously funny!


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