reviews > Chicago, IL

What’s it like to live a secret life? To need to live one’s true life in another country, far away from disapproving parental eyes? Guanyu Xu presents these overlapping realities with the help of his camera, recording through documentary and staged photographs his life as a gay man in the United States; himself and other men in intimate domestic environments; pavement or plants or architecture that caught his eye. So far, so good—Xu’s pictures fit squarely in the tradition of Wolfgang Tillmans and Nan Goldin. But then he goes home, to his parent’s apartment in Beijing, a place where nothing is out of order and everything is heteronormative. Worlds collide. In “Temporarily Censored Home,” Xu takes over the apartment while mom and dad are out and fills it to the brim with the images of his other life. They hang from the ceiling, spread out over the sofa and tables, cover the fridge and the windows, even jut out into doorways. And then, just before they come home again, he packs it all neatly away, into the literal and proverbial closet—though not, of course, before taking enormous hi-resolution photographs of his makeshift installation.

—Lori Waxman 2020-02-01 7:41 PM