Made in China
When San Diego photographer Philipp Scholz Rittermann was invited to show his work in China, he didn't know much about the country. What he did know came mostly from headlines about China's rapidly growing economy. Rittermann did a little research in preparation for his trip and zeroed in on the Grand Canal, the longest man-made river in the world and China's main north-to-south corridor. He would eventually spend two and a half months documenting the country's rapid growth and evolution—visually capturing what he'd read about in news reports.
“This is what those numbers really look like,” Rittermann says as he leads me through Emperor's River, his exhibition hanging at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location (700 Prospect St.).
Rittermann is a fine-art photographer with a taste for urban and industrial landscapes, a talent for capturing technically complicated nighttime shots and a skilled practitioner of a panoramic process that pieces together three or more images into one congruous shot. The China Rittermann captured is one of intense industrial growth, mind-boggling pollution and economic disparity. And from dangerous working conditions to sweeping landscapes of halfbuilt apartment complexes that look like the failed public-housing projects of our own inner cities, Rittermann captures a country caught between tradition and progress.
“Capitalism and communism make strange bedfellows,” he says, pointing out the flashy, acrylic high heels worn by an owner of a barge advertising “cheap sand.”
The juxtaposition of the high-heeled woman against a grimy backdrop, he says, is indicative of the “moderate prosperity” that's starting to pop up amid the government's push toward economic growth.
“There's just this massive remaking of China going on,” Rittermann continues. He points to a somewhat out-of-place photo of a beautiful stone bridge crossing the canal. “That was the China of my imagination. That was the China I thought I would see. But the whole country is in the midst of being remade.”
Viewers can (and do) take their time in front of Rittermann's large, detailed panoramic photographs in which he weaves together multiple moments in time. There are cultural cues throughout the photos, and the overall narrative is eyeopening. Rittermann hopes his photographs tell us something about our own country, too.
“One of the main reasons China looks this way is because the rest of the world wants cheap goods,” he says.
Emperor's River: Philipp Scholz Rittermann is on view through Sept. 5. The photographer will give a talk at MCASD La Jolla at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18. mcasd.org
Growing from the Roots up
The Roots Factory, a Barrio Logan arts collective that often uses a big, bold screen-printed rooster as its logo, has become well-known in the underground arts-and-culture community for hosting free exhibitions, concerts and screen-printing workshops.
They've been able to keep things free without major financial backing, but for the first time since they started more than a year-and-a-half ago, the artists are asking for help.
“In order to continue to provide these free workshops and events,” says one of the group's founders, Ana Brown, via email, “we need help from the community.”
They're also planning to expand The Roots Factory to a second space within their warehouse, as well as launch a new screen-printing apprentice program targeted toward people between the ages of 18 and 22.
To raise funds, they're doing what they do best— holding a big community event and auction at the Factory (1878 Main St.) from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20. The silent art auction will feature 30 artists, including Sergio hernandez, Michael Boshart, Honkey Kong and Lalo Alcaraz. There'll be live screen-printing, limited-edition T-shirts for sale, music by Aqua Dulce and others and a raffle with prizes from Visual Art Supply, Flying Panther Tattoo and other local businesses.
Black velvet and piggy banks
This year's Tiki Oasis festival is as big and jam-packed with kitsch and culture as always—ukulele master King Kukulele will be there, Dixie von Trixie and plenty of other pin-up beauties are on board, tiki-cocktail classes will be offered and lectures on topics like “Polynesian Pop in Mid- Century San Diego” round out the event.
Even if you didn't score a weekend pass, you're still invited to check out the free, open-to-the-public Burros, Black Velvets and Other Delights art show in the Lahaina Room in The Crown Plaza Hotel (2270 Hotel Circle N. in Mission Valley) from Friday, Aug. 19, through Sunday, Aug. 21 (with an opening at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20). Curators Baby Doe and Reesenik asked tiki artists like Derek Yaniger and Doug DoOr to submit an original black-velvet painting or modify a Tijuana-style burro or piggy bank for the show.