(American, b. 1969)
Photograph in handscroll format, ink on mitsumata washi paper
Image: 29.7 x 86.2 cm (11 11/16 x 33 15/16 in.); Overall: 31.6 x 337.2 cm (12 7/16 x 132 3/4 in.)
The Jane B. Tripp Charitable Lead Annuity Trust 2015.80
On the day Cherney took the photograph, Beijing’s Air Quality Index was 517 (150 is unhealthy).
Michael Cherney has a "painterly" style of landscape photography much inspired by the aesthetics of Chinese painting. Here, he superimposed a photograph of the sun onto the composition of Hunlun tu by Zhu Derun (1294–1365), a famous 14th-century Chinese painting variously translated as "Primordial Chaos" or the "Cosmic Circle." Zhu Derun depicted a circle to convey the Daoist cosmological idea of primordial chaos—the great undifferentiated matter out of which heaven and earth and all forms emerged.
Cherney's New Primordial Chaos revisits the chaos after creation, a human-generated chaos that is so overwhelming and toxic that it can cloud the sun, making it look like not itself but the moon. Polluted air and clouds shroud the sun on a Beijing day. The resulting image, which resembles the moon shining in the night sky, is the artist's deliberate attempt to create confusion and subtle critique of the contemporary environmental crisis.
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