New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

BQMB hits Julie Saul Gallery
Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao
Reviewer #1
Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao, “Luna Park”

This exuberant show is a bit of a mash-up of at least three different projects that Jeff Liao has produced over the past five or six years, but they all share a common theme: the celebration of the electricity of New York, both the physical city and the vast variety of people who live here. (BQMB stands for Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn, and as an old Staten Islander I can only recommend that Liao expand his vision to that fifth, most idiosyncratic of boroughs.)

The show starts with two very straight forward, traditional, large-format vistas from 2005, with scenes of Queens and the Bronx in the foreground and the magical island of Manhattan in the background. From these, Liao quickly started to develop a more distinctive style with a series of pictures taken under the Number 7 subway line in Queens. For these pictures of crowded, ever-changing scenes, he took a number of high resolution images from the same vantage point over the course of up to several hours, and then combined them in Photoshop. The results are pictures that have the vibrancy of memories, rather than the simple 1/60th of a second fact of traditional photographs.

The technique is similar to that of Andreas Gursky, but whereas Gursky’s fantasies are minimalist at heart, all the details add veracity to a bold overarching statement, Liao’s pictures bring to mind the bird’s-eye views of Ralph Fassenela or the palaces of Florine Stettheimer. Also, whereas Gursky alters the physical reality of the scene, Liao maintains the framework of what was before the camera, be it the elevated tracks of the El at 148th St in the Bronx, or the overhead oval of the old Shea Stadium. He uses his multiple images to pack people together and to give the lighting and color an otherworldly aura.

The pictures are often filled with people, literally thousands of them in some, but they are not individuals, they serve more as energy units, filling the streets and stadia with that charge that makes walking the streets of New York the exhilarating experience it is.

 by unidentified photographer.
Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao, Yankee Stadiums, 2008

Over the course of the 5 years covered in this show there has been a noticeable refinement of technique. Those of us who spend a good deal of time inside Photoshop can find a number of places where more care should have been taken, especially in earlier pictures. But basic questions of exposure also come to mind, (if there were multiple exposures, why are there so many ‘blown-out’ areas in some of the prints?) And why was the east tower of the George Washington Bridge doubled in the corner of one? Quibbles? – yes, but at these prices, why not ask for perfection. Of course in the end, energy trumps technique, and these pictures have power to spare.

Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao

Julie Saul
535 W 22nd St. 6th Fl
Chelsea         Map

212 627 2410

Thursday, September 9 to
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Hours: Tue-Sat, 11 to 6