The haunting black-and-white photographs in Cui Xiuwen's first solo New York show, Existential Emptiness, represent "the woman as individual in modern China" and illustrate the artist's "examination and analysis of the woman's psyche" (from the press release). On view at Soho's Eli Klein Fine Art, the photos show a girl/woman, the artist's alter ego, posing on snowy white mountains in Northern China with a creepy, life-size, doppelganger doll. "Companion, reflection, and baggage," the girl and the doll are one in the same, evoking "the duality of body and soul, yin and yang, life and lifelessness."
Inspired by traditional Chinese ink painting, Cui's large-scale photos feature vast expanses of crisp whiteness with the two figures appearing on the bottom of the images. The interaction between the girl and the doll—embracing, wrestling in the snow, reaching out to one another—conveys their co-dependent relationship and desperate need for one another. The girl's white, hooded, toggle coat, plaid skirt, and white knee socks suggest innocence while the unclothed, battered, scarred exterior of the doll disturbingly represent "the violence of a woman's experiences and how they impress upon her spirit." The expansive white space, or void, in the works adds to the tension and eeriness of the images. The title of the exhibit, Existential Emptiness seems to imply that in examining her existence the girl comes up with zilch - an emptiness represented by her hollow, lifeless doll. A precocious, young gallery visitor voiced his astute and morbid interpretation of Cui's photos this way—"Because the doll looks like her and she's hurting the doll, that means she wants to die."
Born in Heilongjiang, China in 1970, Cui is currently based in Beijing. Resembling stills from a sleek, psycho-thriller film, her intense, narrative photographs are stirring and powerful. Learn more at ekfineart.com. Through February 27th.