798 stands for much more than a three digit number: in Beijing these numbers symbolize the country's cutting edge art movement led by the Chinese vanguard, unchained artistic personalities with alternative life goals. Wild and unconquered attitudes waft inside 798's free and rambling atmosphere. This area feels a kinship to what can be discovered and sensed along the Left Bank in Paris or around Greenwich Village in NYC.
The Great Third Front - Chen Jiagang Photography Solo Exhibition

Date: 2008-08-16~2008-10-30

Venue: Paris-Beijing Photo Gallery

Exhibition Preface: Paris-Beijing Photo Gallery is delighted to present the new works of artist Chen Jiagang, from August 16th to October 30th, 2008.

The Great Third Front is an expansion of his series Third Front which was worldwide acclaimed and exhibited by the Paris-Beijing last autumn.

During the 1960’s, faced with an unstable foreign policy as well as a high demand for resources, the People’s Republic of China was forced to delocalize most of its heavy industry and armament factories. Originally situated on China’s coasts and in the North East close to the Russian border, these factories were obliged to relocate in the countries heartlands, hidden away and better protected.

So it was that the “Third Front” was created. Over a short period of time millions of workers were encouraged to move to the mountainous regions of Sichuan, Guizhou, and Yunnan, where hundreds of factories were huridly set up. Such a large scale relocation effort was unprecedented in China. Villages transformed overnight into dormitory towns. As immigrant populations were housed in makeshift buildings, these hamlets became significant industrial zones and duly prospered. At the start of the 1980’s, Deng Xiaoping initiated drastic measures in an effort to force the economy to become more market-oriented. These measures hit the industrial zones of the “Third Line” hard, gutting the villages nearly as quickly as they had sprung up. In just a few years these industrial monoliths that were once the pride of the country became obsolete and useless. One by one they were closed down and the workers went back to their roots, leaving the cities abandoned. Today they are ghost towns in the truest sense of the word.

Chen Jiagang, an award-winning architect and former real estate promoter has a visceral understanding of space and form as well as an in depth feeling for the ways in which human beings live their lives. He brings this knowledge to the gigantic industrial spaces putting them to the ground glass of a field camera creating images that find their final expressions in the monumental large-scale color pictures that are his signature. Over the past five years, Chen Jiagang has taken the “Third Line” as the subject matter of his first extensive body of works trying to capture the specters of industry that still reside there.

The Great Third Front represents 88 new pictures realized in 12x20inches colour negatives. In a 30,000 miles journey by car, Chen Jiagang passed through the most remote places of Central and Western China, accompanied by a team of eight people. Three beautiful young women pose in these colossal industrial decors, appearing so distant and so exterior, as figures of another time and world. His sumptuous pictures sadly tell the story of these cities which were, at a time, the incarnation of the social idealism, the glory of the country and, which have become nowadays, useless industrial cemeteries and endless wastelands…

In a country that is presently experiencing one of the highest rates of development in the world, Chen Jiagang interrogate us about the usefulness, or absurdity of the mad race toward development that human beings have been pursuing for decades.

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