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CHAN CHAO - BURMA: SOMETHING WENT WRONG
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CHAN CHAO’S SEARING PORTRAITS OF A COUNTRY UNDER SIEGE –
BURMA: SOMETHING WENT WRONG
GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY GALLERY SPACES
February 24 through March 28
Reception and gallery talk: Thursday, March 20
Fairfax, Virginia, February 12, 2003—Born in Burma, Chan Chao and his family left for the United States in 1978, when he was twelve years old. In his exhibition, Burma: Something Went Wrong Chan Chao’s most recent portraits, shot on personal assignment in the remote area of Southeast Asia on Burma’s border with India and Thailand, focus not on political rebellion and warfare, but rather Chao’s rediscovery of his native culture.
George Mason University gallery program director Kirby Malone presents this installation in the Johnson Center and Fine Arts Galleries on Mason’s Fairfax campus beginning February 24 and running through March 28. An artist talk begins at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 20 in the Fine Arts Gallery, followed by a reception at 5:30 in the Johnson Center Gallery. In addition to the Burma series, Chan Chao’s show at Mason also features a series of larger-than-life-size nude portraits.
"Burma is a golden land, the richest country in Asia, the envy of its neighbors; its people are the kindest, most hospitable on earth," says Amitav Ghosh in his afterword to Burma: Something Went Wrong, Chan Chao’s acclaimed book documenting his trips to his native country. With his art, Chao puts a face to one of the most troubled and least understood countries of our world. While Burma (now Myanmar) is a nation in violent conflict, Chao’s technique is to create a portrait featuring the refugees, pro-democracy insurgents, soldiers and others who populate the country, against the lush, colorful, fragrant backdrop of what is undoubtedly a beautiful country. The juxtaposition informs the viewer, that this is region, although in constant turmoil, is still a "golden land."
Featured in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, Chao teaches at George Washington University and the Corcoran College of Art and Design. He has received grants from the DC Commission of Art and Humanities and the Open Society Institute, as well as a Light Work residency.
Chan Chao’s portraits are remarkable for the honesty with which they portray the plight of the people trapped in this conflict. Despair, defeat, suffering and incomprehension are all depicted; yet one sees also courage and hope – values that sustained the war, and the people, for more than half a century.
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The Johnson Center Gallery is located on the main level of the George W. Johnson Center in the heart of Mason’s Fairfax campus. The Fine Arts Gallery is located on the ground floor of the Fine Arts Building in room B104. Galleries are open Mon-Thurs., from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Fridays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., unless otherwise noted, and by appointment. The Gallery Program is a division of Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, home to the Center for the Arts. The College of Visual and Performing Arts exists to create an academic environment in which the arts may be considered both as individual disciplines and as interdisciplinary forms that strengthen each other. Believing that an education in the arts is deepened by regular contact with the work of distinguished visiting artists, the College draws on a variety of professional presenting and producing units where artists from across the country and around the world regularly perform, give master classes, work with students during extended residencies, and interact with the community in a variety of other ways. These programs at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall, TheaterSpace, Galleries, Harris Theater, and other venues, provide a diverse selection of challenging and entertaining cultural experiences for the University community, as well as Northern Virginia and the greater Washington, D.C. area. The College houses four academic departments: Art and Visual Technology, Dance, Music and Theater.