Alex G. Cao
Alex G. Cao (b. 1969) was originally born in China, and moved to the United States with his family in the 1980s. Today, he works and lives in New York City. Cao’s most recent series of images are monumentally-sized pixilated images of well-known celebrities and historical figures. The familiar images are easily recognized but not so easily taken in.
At first demanding distance, the monumental image pushes the viewer away. One is quickly drawn in close, however, by the pixels, which are iconic images in themselves. Jackie makes up JFK, the Mona Lisa composes Marilyn Monroe, Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde becomes Pamela Anderson. The dialogue between the two images presents another layer to be deciphered. In some cases, carefully chosen codes and clues are inserted in strategic locations as a reminder of the events and situations in which these characters were involved.
The histories and backgrounds of each of the characters are deliberately pitted against each other. Marilyn Monroe is composed of tiny images of the Mona Lisa. These two women are, arguably, the most famous women in the world. They share an unusual bond in that they are both, in some ways, fictional characters. They are both fantasies; one is the fantasy of the 20th century, the other the singular fantasy and imagination of DaVinci which has lived on into the present day.
Cao’s study of the Western world’s antiquity and travels in Italy greatly impacted how Cao views the world—thus Cao uses his understanding of the West’s ancient past as a lens through which he views our world today. The ideal forms and proportions of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman sculpture and the mosaics on the floors and walls in Naples and Pompeii had an especially great impact on him. From these two ancient forms, Cao finds a means of expressing the phenomenon of celebrity through the decidedly modern medium of photography.
Ultimately the goal of this series is the encoding and layering of information. As time passes, the images accumulate information in addition to the artist’s original intent. They undergo evolution and change and bear the marks of history.