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Liu Bolin

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They keep things out or enclose them within. They're symbols of power, and a means of control. They're canvases for art, backdrops for street theater, and placards for political messages. They're just waiting for when nobody's looking to receive graffiti. Walls of all kinds demarcate our lives. -- Lane Turner (41 photos total).
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Workers clean the curtain wall of the 40-story National Bank of Economic Social Development in Rio de Janeiro on December 12, 2012. (Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images)     

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The relationship between the state and society in China has been ground for producing controversial works of art such as the iconic photograph of Tank Man — the lone civilian standing up to the People’s Liberation Army in Tiananmen Square — or Ai Weiwei’s Study in Perspective, both of which seek a spiritual redress in their defiance of authority. In this sociopolitical tradition stands the work of the Beijing-based artist Liu Bolin, who employs photography as a means to explore the Chinese national identity while silently protesting its government. His series Hiding in the City was born out of the governmental eviction and subsequent destruction of his Beijing studio in 2005. As a result, Liu began to use the city around him as a backdrop, painting himself to blend in with a landscape in constant flux. By literally blending into the city, Liu, who considers himself an outsider, creates a tension that challenges the viewer to question what is on and beneath the surface.

Liu’s Hiding in the City series, along with other work by the photographer, is currently on view at the Eli Klein Fine Art gallery in New York City. For Liu, the most important element of his images is the background. By using iconic cultural landmarks such as the Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall, or the remains of Suo Jia Village where his studio was housed, Liu seeks to direct awareness to the humanity caught between the relics of the imperial past and the sleek modern monoliths of the 21st century China. Each image requires meticulous planning and execution: as both artist and performer, Liu directs the photographer on how to compose each scene before entering the frame. Once situated, he puts on his Chinese military uniform, which he wears for all of his Invisible Man photographs and, with the help of an assistant and painter, is painted seamlessly into the scene. This process can sometimes take up to 10 hours with Liu having to stand perfectly still. Although the end result of Liu’s process is the photograph, the tension between his body and the landscape is itself a manifestation of China’s incredible social and physical change. Simultaneously a protester and a performance artist, Liu completely deconstructs himself by becoming invisible, becoming a symbol of the humanity hidden within the confines of a developing capital.

Liu Bolin is a Chinese artist whose work has been shown around the world. The exhibition Liu Bolin: Lost in Art will be on view at the Eli Klein Fine Art gallery in New York City through May 11.

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China, the most populous country (1.3 billion people) and the second-largest economy in the world, is a vast, dynamic nation that continues to grow and evolve in the 21st century. Recent events in China include a successful satellite launch that lays the groundwork for a space station, the completion of a massive skyscraper in a rather small village, the 26th Universiade games for student athletes, the celebration of National Day, the Mid-Autumn Festival, and much more. This collection is only a small view of the people and places in China over the past several weeks. [49 photos]

Chinese artist Liu Bolin waits for his colleagues to put a finishing touch on him to blend into rows of soft drinks in his artwork entitled "Plasticizer" to express his speechlessness at use of plasticizer in food additives, in his studio at the 798 Art District in Beijing, China, on August 10, 2011. (AP Photo)

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BLENDING IN BLENDING IN: Chinese artist Liu Bolin waited Wednesday for his colleagues to put a finishing touch on him to blend into rows of soft drinks in his artwork entitled ‘Plasticizer,’ in his studio in Beijing. (Associated Press)

AFTER THE RIOTS AFTER THE RIOTS: A couple drank at a boarded-up wine bar Wednesday in London following riots in the city. Prime Minister David Cameron said ‘We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order on to our streets.’ (Toby Melville/Reuters)

BREAKING THE FAST BREAKING THE FAST: Impoverished Indian Muslims crowded outside a restaurant Wednesday to receive food handouts before breaking their Ramadan fast in New Delhi. (Kevin Frayer/Associated Press)

TRUDGING ALONG TRUDGING ALONG: Primary school boys carried their desks Wednesday after their school flooded from heavy rains at Bassi Kalan village on the outskirts of Jammu, India. (Mukesh Gupta/Reuters)

HOMEWARD BOUND HOMEWARD BOUND: 1st Lt. Nikesh Kapadia, 24, center, with the U.S. Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, stood in the rain Wednesday while waiting to go through customs in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, on the way back to the U.S. after a deployment in Afghanistan. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

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Students from Bellport High School, many wearing their graduation caps and gowns, embraced Friday outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church in Patchogue, N.Y., where a funeral was held for 17-year-old Jennifer Mejia, one of four people killed in a Medford robbery Sunday. (Kevin P. Coughlin for The Wall Street Journal)

Dozens of brass players positioned themselves around the lake in Central Park Tuesday, playing an original composition called to an audience in rowboats as part of a daylong event called Make Music NY, which consisted of more than a thousand free concerts across New York City over the course of the day. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)

Antonio Munoz, center, rounds a corner during the Skyscraper Classic cycling race in Harlem on Sunday. Leif Lampater of Germany claimed the overall men’s professional title. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)

Bernice Acosta was among the thousands who celebrated the summer solstice by performing yoga in Times Square on Tuesday. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Artist Akihiro Ito helps install his sculpture titled ‘Forever,’ on Tuesday in Riverside Park on the Hudson River near 60th Street. Other works by members of the Art Students League also will be installed along the riverfront for a year. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)

Chinese artist Liu Bolin was painted for an art project at the Charging Bull in lower Manhattan Thursday. Mr. Bolin is creating a series called ‘Hiding In The City’ in which he camouflages himself against an urban background for a self-portrait.  (Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal)

Ibtihaj Muhammad practiced her thrusts Thursday in Maplewood, NJ. Ms. Muhammad, 25, is the 11th ranked female saber fencer in the world and the 2nd ranked US Women’s saber fencer.  (Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journal)

Braised rutabaga with plum, fennel, pistachio and goat cheese at Gotham Bar & Grill. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)

Andrej Ruff proposed to Natalia Giesbrecht, his girlfriend of 12 years, in a row boat on Central Park on Tuesday. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)

Actor Todd Lawson on the cot babckstage at the Acorn Theatre on 42nd Street. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)

A fan is carried by a New York City police officer to an ambulance after falling ill at a promotional appearance by Justin Bieber at Macy’s in New York Thursday. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)

James ‘Whitey’ Bulger peered down from a digital billboard above Times Square on Monday. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)

Kyrie Irving, who many sports analysts expect to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night, attended a clinic for athletes with mental disabilities with Brandon Knight, left, and Kemba Walker, right, at New York City’s John Jay College Wednesday. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)

Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns shows off his soccer skills during a charity match Wednesday on the Lower East Side. Several NBA and soccer stars participated in the annual event. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)

Robin Mazzanewitter and her father, Paul Mazza, played gongs in Columbus Circle as part of the Make Music NY festival. (Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journal)

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