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M97 Gallery
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Shanghai, China 200060   map * 
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Small God, Big City
by M97 Gallery
Location: M97 Gallery
Artist(s): Michael WOLF
Date: 7 Dec 2013 - 23 Feb 2014

M97 Gallery is pleased to present Small God, Big City, an exhibition of photographic works by internationally renowned artist Michael Wolf. The Small God, Big City exhibition takes the viewer through the oeuvre of one of Asia’s most prolific photographers. The exhibition features over 100 photographs from seven of Michael Wolf’s bodies of work: My Favorite Things, Hong Kong Back Door (2003), Architecture of Density (2003-07), Industrial Architecture (2006), Tokyo Compression (2010), Small God, Big City (2012), and Scout Shots, the recently released collection of small format pictures of buildings taken by Wolf in scouting trips around Hong Kong, while working on his Density and Industrial series.

Beginning with his back alleyway street photography with the series My Favorite Things and Hong Kong Back Door (2003), Wolf’s camera is always interested in the human footprint and traces of the individual left, and often lost, amidst the chaotic density of the Asian megacity of Hong Kong, where Wolf has lived since the 1990s. The traces of human makeshift ingenuity recorded by Wolf is not sardonic whimsy, but fascination with the creative and improvisational ability and resilience of the individual, who is forced to be resourceful in an unfriendly environment where physical space has been commercialized and commoditized perhaps more than anywhere else on the planet. This struggle of the human spirit reclaiming and reinventing the limited physical space and means we are giving is a constant throughout Wolf’s photographic oeuvre.

For Wolf, Tokyo Compression (2010) is the direct depiction of this conflict of the human spirit trapped in a confined and often hostile predicament. Capturing the contorted faces of Tokyo subway riders, Wolf’s photographs again transcend satire or snide snapshots to depict the human spirit trapped in an existential struggle of space and spirit. The artist confronts the viewer with the issue of overcrowded cities and how the human spirit both succumbs to and overcomes urban man-made madness.

Wolf’s most recent body or work of photographs, Small God, Big City (2012), is a collection of pictures of Earth God statues scattered around the streets of Hong Kong. The title of this series typifies Wolf’s proposed human dilemma for us: present day societies caught up in consumerism and the commercial world at the very expense of our own humanity. Much like the small symbolic disregarded gods littered around Hong Kong’s side streets, the Gods offer hope and meaning for the human spirit, yet often reflect an immediate environment in absolute disregard for such an important and significant spiritual shrine. Here again Wolf shows the contradictions between the needs of the human spirit juxtaposed with the indifferent realities of high-priced real estate and busy commercial streets, where even the Earth Gods have been marginalized.

*image (left)
© Michael Wolf
courtesy of the artist and M97 Gallery

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