Featuring careful arrangements of singular objects, Huang Xu’s staged photographs investigate the ways that materials circulate in and express the conditions of the contemporary world. Through his photographs, Huang seeks to elucidate ideas about beauty and use-value—an assessment of an object based on its function rather than its cultural significance. His photographs of flowers evoke certain works by Robert Mapplethorpe; richly seductive, the images feature minute chromatic shifts and intimate details of each petal’s surface. Such qualities are also evident in his “Fragments” series, in which the artist has sculpted and photographed used plastic bags salvaged from trash piles in his native Beijing. Molded into ghostly forms with 3-D scanners, the bags contain a rich sense of color and surface texture, evincing a dynamic quality despite being still images. Huang is especially interested in the way the bags symbolize convenience and waste and evoke ideas about China’s role in the global economy.