Photographer of the Week #169: Guanyu Xu

Guanyu Xu is a Chicago-based artist working in photography and installation. Born in Beijing, Xu moved to the United States where he earned his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a recipient of the Fred Endsley Memorial Fellowship, a finalist for the Lucie Foundation Emerging Artist Scholarship and a finalist for the Luminarts Cultural Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship. Xu’s work examines issues of homophobia, racism, xenophobia and cultural imperialism.

“In my project, One Land To Another, I present my personal journey in the United States in a half documentary/half fiction narrative through photographic installations. I intersperse self-portraits of my staged death and American landscapes with images in which I perform acts of intimacy with other gay men. The presence of my Asian gay body disrupts the dominance of queer aesthetics which privilege a narrow, white, “masculine” homonormativity. Ultimately, the project offers an alternative representation of Asians that is seldom found in the mainstream.“

In “One Land To Another,” Xu utilizes mirrors, eye contact with the viewer, and tight camera angles to construct a narrative that presents moments of intimacy and longing, questioning who looks and is being looked at. These images are shaped by American generalizations of gay Asian men as both feminine and submissive. Xu’s presence in Blind Massage and Statues appears dominant and in control. In The Ideal Body, Sea, Immortality and Death in a Bathtub, Xu’s body questions western perceptions of the ideal nude.

Several non-descript photographs included in this project such as Surface, A Snow Day, and The Sun Is Bright And Warm contribute to the trajectory of the narrative by allowing the viewer to have a sense of the banal. These are placed throughout the series, often creating a public-versus-private, viewer-versus-subject perspective.

For more of Guanyu Xu’s work, go to his website: