By CRAIG STEPHENS
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Artist Alex Guofeng Cao's innovative mosaic-styled art works are resonating on a global scale. Inspired by such masters as Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Edward Weston, and Robert Mapplethorpe, Cao's career as an artist has seen him study and experiment with a variety of photographic methods and techniques.
Of late his photographic creativity has leaned towards large-scale monochromatic digital works, namely a series called "Legend." Explaining the cryptic imagery, Cao reveals, "I'm fascinated by icons and celebrity. I have worked with many from Lindsay Lohan to Tommy Lee Jones, they shared a common musicality that translates internationally."
The "Legend" series sees a melding of two contrasting artistic techniques. Images of pop culture icons, Pam Anderson, Marilyn Monroe, Lady Di, are reinvented and reinterpreted care of Cao's dexterous hand and creative vision.
Technically, 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."
Thematically exploring iconic celebrity images and mass culture, via the precision of digital photography, "Legend," applies the intricacy of the traditional mosaic to the modern day concept of digital pixilation to reinterpret images of pop culture icons.
Using an innovative technique, larger images of pop icons are created by a constellation of tiny repetitive images each slightly different, though smaller, variations of the larger iconic image.
Cao reveals that the method of creation is "that of 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 Egyptian, Greek and Roman eras."
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."
Commenting on the work, Cao reveals, "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."
An image of Marilyn Monroe is populated by countless diminutive images of the Mona Lisa. "These two women are, arguably, the most famous women in the world," Cao adds, "They share an unusual bond in that they are both, in some ways, fictional characters. The pairing also suggests another connection in that they are both fantasies. One is the fantasy of the 20th century and the other is the singular fantasy and imagination of Da Vinci."
As one looks closer and closer at the images, the process of encoding and layering of information of the times is evident. As time passes, so information gets deposited into the works. These images undergo evolution and changes as time passes, and they bear the marks of a collection of history, as well as the author's intent.
Testament to the series' appeal is the level of global recognition it has attained. The "Legend" series is now showing at a range of private galleries and art fairs, in North America, as well as Europe and Asia.
While exhibited at Art Basel Miami in 2009, the Miami Herald devoted a cover story to the series, as did other esteemed North American titles including the Los Angeles Daily News and Santa Monica Daily Express, who offered endless praise for the work with assorted superlatives such as "enticing" and "innovative."