Selected Reviews:

by Vince Aletti
September 10, 2012

The Shanghai-born, New York-based photographer builds on a series of provocative self-portraits with a group that proves an unsettled identity can still have a powerful presence. Though nude throughout, Wei reveals only so much, and in the few images where he is not alone the scenarios are fraught but ambiguous. In one, a naked man cups Wei’s throat in a gesture that’s at once intimate and threatening; in another, the photographer sits tensed at the edge of a bed, his back to a naked young woman and a sleeping man. When he’s the only subject, Wei is alternately seductive and introspective, knowing and innocent—part satyr, part sprite. Opens Sept. 13.

by Vince Aletti
May 30, 2011

The photographer, whose radiant still-lifes of fruits and vegetables steal the "Moveable Feast" exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, shows color portraits and landscapes from his recently published book, "Chinese Sentiment." Returning to China after years living abroad, Wei looked for traces of the country he remembered, so most of his pictures were made in towns, far from the bustle of Beijing. The work has a hushed, intimate quality, and not just because most of his solitary young male and female subjects are seen half-naked and at home. Even the landscapes are rich with emotion, loving and keenly felt. Through June 4.

Shen Wei - Daniel Cooney Fine Art
by Elisabeth Kley
December, 2012

In “I Miss You Already,” Shen Wei’s ongoing series of exquisite nude self-portrait color photographs, the artist can be viewed as either poised for action or meditative and at rest, depending on the contexts or implied situations, which are always highly suggestive. Wei dramatically reveals his elegant body for the viewer’s delectation.

Inspired by the lighting and scenery in Dutch Old Master paintings, Untitled Self-Portrait (Toes), 2011, shows Shen standing in a weathered green rowboat partially filled with water, his leg gracefully extended as he texts the water with his toe. In Untitled Self-portrait (Balance), 2011, he keeps himself precariously erect atop a rock in the midst of an enormous cave, spreading the danger below. Again contrasting his glowing body with harshness of nature, he poses in a smaller dark cave for Untitled Self-portrait (Bent), 2009, doing a backbend, as if testing his flexibility.

Two Photographs featuring other naked people evoke a different kind of vulnerability. In Untitled Self-portrait (Syracuse), 2011, Shen tilts his head back and closes his eyes while a black man whose head is cropped by the frame gently grasps his throat. A homoerotic situation of mingled trust and menace is implied. Untitled Self-portrait (Woodstock), 2011, features Shen sitting on the side of a hotel bed staring out into the distance. A woman kneels at his side and a man sleeps beside him, but Shen’s soulful expression contradicts any sexual interpretation of the scene. Exposed and unprotected in informal situations, the artist insinuates his body into the outside world, poised at the edge of an always undefined future.

Moments Between Departure and Termination
By Gabriele Derouiche
December 10, 2013

The Frankfurt Galerie Lothar Albrecht shows photographs of Chinese photographer Shen Wei who has observed the changes in his homeland with his camera.

Is she sleeping, is she dead? What does the delicate necklace mean? Chinese photographer Shen Wei has swiftly designed his traps and the viewers tap into its fascination. Tingwei is a complex portrait of a young woman, photographed in the 2010, where Wei treaded a fine line between eroticism and morbidity. Tingwei lying in the grass, eyes closed, mouth half open, the collarbone under the pale skin foreshadows the torso. Her silver necklace tightened beautifully just above the throat, provokes disturbing allusions.

Double Meaning

In a quiet piece of nature, the woman is laying there and appears dull and pale, with a soothing olive colored background, and a gray wall with characters cheering abruptly. The artist and photographer Shen Wei was born in 1977 in Shanghai and is a master of innuendo who draws inspiration from the traditions of Western and Eastern culture.

The current exhibition entitled Chinese Sentiment at the Frankfurt Galerie Lothar Albrecht shows a selection of his photographs from the titled project. Shen Wei arrived in Minneapolis in the United States 13 years ago as an art student, but soon he fell in love with photography which at the time was not considered a serious art in China. “Photography was an abstract thing for me.” Today the work of the artist is standing between Chinese and European art with ambiguity.

A lone Chinese man standing on rugged rocks can be a reminiscence of the Northern German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. The still life of clock and withered flowers in Ming vases echoes the vanities paintings of the Old Dutch masters. Wei lives in New York and only periodically visits his homeland. "Every time I go back to China it feels like going to a new country." He is amazed by the changes of his home country. Shen Wei takes a critical view of the rapid economic development of China. Shocked that private life has been exposed by the ruthless actions of a wrecking ball, he made an image of a demolished house. "Here you can see it all in public, where the Wang family brushed their teeth." The old tiles remain on the walls that tell the stories of generations.

The Ego as a Model

Wei’s nude photographs have a wider audience. He poses as his own model. The image of Tea shows himself in his very own tea ceremony - with a paper cup. The age-old tradition surfaced in the 21st Century. While naked in a hotel bed, Wei leads the steam of drink to the mouth. Gentle backlight enhanced the scene with warmth despite the flavor of the disposable tableware. His Tea-to-go can be so poetic. (Translation of original in German)

Critic's Choice
by Aaron Schuman
July 27, 2007

Shen Wei‘s series, ‘Almost Naked’, possesses a strikingly accomplished balance of raw intimacy and formal intensity, seldom found in contemporary photographic portraiture. As trite as it may seem within the current climate of cynicism, sarcasm and irony, there is a real sense of emotional connection in these pictures, not only between the photographer and his models, but between the viewer and the viewed as well.

Wei’s subjects are quietly stripped bare before the camera, despite the fact that many of them remain fully clothed. And in a culture more generally enthralled with cool, pokerfaced posturing or explicit, often gimmicky sexuality, the restrained and tender emotional force of Wei’s imagery is remarkably powerful.

April 21, 2011

Photographer Shen Wei’s pictures of contemporary China are taut, wan compositions that seethe with uncertainty: A shirtless man poses against a unfocused, hazy skyline; a tree leans at an improbable 45 degree angle in an ancient courtyard; a girl’s jet-black hair falls over her bare shoulders as she stares away from the camera, faceless, against a blank wall. Now Daniel Cooney Fine Art is showing its first solo show of color photos that Shen took across China between 2008 and 2010 — a display that will be accompanied by the publication of the artist’s first monograph, “Chinese Sentiment,” with text by New Yorker sinologist and “Oracle Bones” author Peter Hessler. At a time when China is experiencing a widespread crackdown on its artistic and intellectual circles, these images give a face to a country with a future as uncertain as its past is etched in stone.

Shen Wei: Chinese Sentiment
by Franklin W. Liu
September, 2011

Shen Wei’s aptly-titled fine arts photographic exhibition of 22 evocative and poetically austere, nostalgic images were astutely captured while visiting many Chinese provinces as well as in Shanghai, where he was born 34 years ago.

The images of “Chinese Sentiment” are a provenance of traditional landscapes, juxtaposed with up-close, idiosyncratic flashes of intimate snapshots showing private moments of nude individuals reposing in their room. An unmistakable, stark quietude dominates.
Read the full article here.

Book Review: Shen Wei - Chinese Sentiment
by Adam Bell
Avoiding the jingoistic and sensationalist tenor of recent books, Shen Wei's first book, Chinese Sentiment, offers an antidote to the neon tigers and faceless masses of recent photographic work on China. Instead, Shen presents a beautiful dream fugue about contemporary China in the throws of tumultuous change that even its populace hasn't quite fully comprehended.
Read full article here.

International Association of Art Critics Hong Kong
Chinese art in Chelsea
by Tina Yee-wan Pang
June 11, 2011

Shen Wei’s photography resolves this question with neither angst nor confrontation. Shen is an artist who perhaps does not benefit from being discussed in a review that artificially groups together artists of Chinese origin being shown in New York. Born in Shanghai but based in New York, Shen’s work can be seen in two different exhibitions in New York that should be considered together. In Chinese Sentiment at Daniel Cooney Fine Art, the artist addresses the condition of being Chinese only as it relates to his own lived experience, specifically visits that he made to China between 2008 and 2010, with a sensitive and fresh eye. The range of work on view highlights some of Shen’s considerable strengths.

In recent years, the depiction of Chinese landscape in photography has shown the influence of artists such as Edward Burtynsky and Allan Sekula, who use the cool gaze of the lens to cast a critical eye on man’s relationship with, and attempt to manipulate nature. Such images, whether intentionally or not, are also becoming commentaries on the subject of illegal land seizures and the pace of development, a growing source of rural and urban unrest in China. Shen’s relationship to his subjects, in landscape and still lifes seems distanced as if that of a huaqiao (華僑) or overseas Chinese, not quite a tourist’s gaze, but finding interest in images that betray an outsider’s romantic tendencies.

His still lifes have a haunting contrary quality. Nostalgic in subject matter, but evidently modern in approach and composition, these are his best works, and can be seen to greater advantage in Shen’s Table Setting as part of Aperture Foundation’s five-artist commission Moveable Feast: Fresh Produce and the NYC Green Cart Program at the City Museum of New York. Sharply composed and saturated in colour these possess the hyper-reality of Dutch and Flemish still life paintings, generating a similar discomfort with their intensity of sensual experience offered up to the eye. Shen’s portraits have a similarly candid and intimate quality that speak so much to an actual lived relationship that they inspire some of the discomfort and voyeurism that the renowned photographer Diane Arbus confronted her viewers with.

Fremde und vertraute chinesische Gefuhle
(Strange and Familiar Chinese Feelings)
by Christoph Schotte
January 8, 2014

(English Translation coming soon)
Blick auf die Heimat: Arbeiten von Shen Wei sind in der Frankfurter L.A. Galerie zu sehen

Noch vor zehn oder zwölf Jahren hätte es diese Bilder nicht gegeben. Das liegt weniger daran, dass Shen Weis Aufnahmen Dokumente des rasanten Wandels der chinesischen Gesellschaft wären und mithin, der Wahrheit des konkreten Augenblicks verbunden, rasch von gestern anmuten könnten. So ist es nicht. Es liegt auch nicht daran, dass der Künstler sich meist digitaler Technik bedient und sich und seine Modelle gelegentlich auf eine intim zu nennende Weise inszeniert, die man von einem chinesischen Künstler vielleicht nicht unbedingt erwarten wui de. All das spielt fur Shen Weis Arbei zwar durchaus eine Rolle. Entscheidene aber ist die Perspektive, ist der Blick, der der 1977 in Schanghai zur Welt gekommene Kunstlers auf das China der Gegenwart wirft.

Dieser Blick hat sich radikal verandert, seit Wei einst seine Heimat Richtung New York und Minneapolis verlassen hat. „Chinese Sentiment", so der Titel der Ausstellung, mit der sich der ers in den Vereinigten Staaten zur Fotografie gelangte Kunstler jetzt erstmals in der Frankfurter L.A. Galerie vorstellt, ist denn auch kaum an den glanzend Stahl und Glas gewordenen Monumenten der entfesselten chinesischen Moderne interessiert, die das durch die Medien vermittelte Bild des Europaers vom Reich der Mitte mehr und mehr bestimmen. Nicht das ehrfiirchtige Staunen vor den Wundern des Kapitalismus oder die wuchernden Metropolen sind sein kunstlerisches Thema, auch nicht das Gegenteil, die Besinnung auf Chinas sich auflosende Traditionen.

Es ist die Dialektik von Innen und Auben, von ,Fremdem und Vertrautem, die Shen Weis Werk im Kern zusammenhalt. Der Blick des Auswanderers, der nach rund 15 Jahren erstmals wieder durch seine Heimat reist und in einer anderen Welt und einer ihm fremd gewordenen Gegenwart gelandet ist, in der er unwillkiirlich nach den Bildern seiner Erinnerung und der verlorenen Jugend Ausschau halt — das ist das Spannungsfeld, das Shen Wei mit jedem seiner Stillleben und Interieurs, seiner Landschaften und Portrats neu vermisst. Wie schmal allerdings der Grat ist, auf dem der junge Ktinstler sich dabei bewegt, lasst sich in Anbetracht so mancher Aufnahme und insbesondere der Portras von „Chinese Sentiment" nicht iibersehen. Wo es gelingt, sind diese Bilder voll geheimer Poesie.