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The Digital Mosaics of Photographer Alex Guofeng Cao

Intricate and ingenious – the work of artist Alex Guofeng Cao is resonating on a global scale. A specialist of digitally enhanced photography, Guofeng Cao’s ouvre sees him deconstructing iconic photographs and reassembling them with his trademark pixilated images.

Cao’s detailed, awe inspiring work sees him study and experiment with a variety of photographic techniques. His highly innovative photomosaic style melds old world and new, with digital innovation seeking inspiration by such masters as Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Edward Weston, and Robert Mapplethorpe.

MARILYN vs BRIGITTE

MARILYN vs BRIGITTE

Having been lauded internationally for his work, the New York based is constantly exhibiting, with recent shows including Art Basel Miami, The LA Art Show, Guy Hepner gallery in West Hollywood and the forthcoming Palm Springs Fine Art Fair (opening February 15).

Asked about his choice of imagery for his work Cao reveals his preferences have spanned a spectrum of subject matter. His earlier “Legend,” series saw a fascination with icons and celebrity. “I have worked with many from Lindsay Lohan to Tommy Lee Jones, they share a common musicality that translates internationally.”

I CARE, AFTER LICHTENSTEIN

I CARE, AFTER LICHTENSTEIN

Yet his current series, “Masters,” is rather an observation of classical icons over pop, with reinterpreted and recontextualised images of works by Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Edward Weston. Of the latter series he reveals “its is more an exploration of antiquity and classicism, an expression of my affection for renaissance art.”

Another great source of inspiration are impressions from his trip a decade ago of the mosaic floors and walls of Naples and Pompeii. “It’s the combination of these two base strategies that allows my work to take shape.”

In keeping with this historic homage, on a technical level Cao says that despite his fascination with the digital medium, monochrome tradition is something he still romanticizes. “The subtle gradations of tone between deep black and stark white are the generators for all the colors I need to create my world.”

JAMES DEAN vs ELVIS

JAMES DEAN vs ELVIS

The work sees the artist processing well-known images into grids of thousands of copies of a smaller, related image. Cao then re-connects the circuits of historical meaning by breaking down the original analogue photograph into digital photo-mosaics that literalize the logic of their own production.

Cao does not allow the ease of the computer’s mechanical repetitions have the final say. In each large photomosaic, made up of tens of thousands of virtual pixels, the repeated, embedded image is interrupted at least once in the overall grid, replaced in one or more locations with yet another, still related picture. In his latest series he is deviating more and more from the original image.

Of the creative process Cao says he is “composing a mosaic of memories into an impression of the present.” He adds, “I am Impressed and greatly influenced by the ideal forms and proportions of the iconic and statuesque sculptures of the ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman eras.”

He adds, “The powerful oversized main images and the armies of tiny images that compose them are specifically paired to create a dialogue. The histories and backgrounds of each of the characters are pitted against each other.”

LIZ vs BURTON, AFTER HALSMAN

LIZ vs BURTON, AFTER HALSMAN

With a background in commercial photography, Cao immigrated to the U.S. from China at the age of 13. His career as a commercial photographer before the recent transition to fine art saw him working with a slew of high caliber clients including magazines Vogue, Cosmopolitan New York Times Cartier Chanel and Kodak.

According to LA gallerist Guy Hepner, who is currently showing the work at his West Hollywood space, “Alex Guofeng Cao’s images are imposing and arresting to say the least. His powerful oversized fine art photographs and the armies of tiny images that compose them are specifically paired to create a dialogue.”

The art of Alex Guofeng Cao can be seen at Guy Hepner gallery in Los Angeles through February and beyond. It will also be shown at a key booth at the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair, February 15 – 17.

The work can be viewed at http://www.alexguofengcao.com/

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About Craig Stephens

Craig Stephens is an Australian born freelance writer who has lived in the U.S. (LA &NYC) since Jan. 2000. He has written for an absurd cross section of titles from Playboy to Personal Computer, Elle to Tokyo Journal, Dart International, Artweek, Adweek, Malibu Magazine, LA Weekly, Loaded and many more, from stints in London, Tokyo, Berlin and NYC. More about him at craig-stephens.com

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