Cityscape, Past and Present
Referred to in the 18th century as “view painting,” or verdute, this genre developed with the unique views in which particular painters depicted—and in turn iconized—a city, particularly Venice, as seen through the lens of artists such as Francesco Guardi or Antonio Canaletto. While neither Guardi or Canaletto were successful until much later in their lives, today our imagery and associations of Venice go hand in hand with the works of these two artists, demonstrating the potency of what is known today as a cityscape. And the genre has lost none of its appeal, as contemporary artists continue to explore and push its boundaries. Shanghai-based duo Birdhead (comprised of Ji Weiyu and Song Tao) continue to work with and manipulate the cityscape, using a camera where Guardi and Canaletto once used a brush. For Birdhead, photographing the city serves as both a lens into the past and the future, claiming that “[whatever] we photograph is memory,” while simultaneously acknowledging that “[we] live in this time, and [the city] is changing around us.”
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