Explore China in this new photography exhibition

“What I saw in China, and how I saw it, is what you see here.” These words greet all who enter The Warehouse’s latest exhibit, “CHINA: Then & Now – Jan Serr,” which runs through December 29 (1635 W. St. Paul Ave., thewarehousemke.org). Featuring 64 photographs taken by Serr, the gallery embarks on a journey that seems to transcend time – showing the country’s ancient but enduring traditions juxtaposed against skyscraper-riddled modern skylines and bustling freeways.

Structured like a walk down a city street, with movable barriers that create a labyrinthine path, visitors have the opportunity to walk as Serr did through the streets of China’s “old city” hutong district, where the inhabitants are shown in the midst of their daily lives in large archival prints of Serr’s photography. There is a sense of timelessness – that the people pictured go about their day as they always have, remaining impervious to any nudge towards modernity.

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In the middle of the exhibit is a large Moon Gate – a circular opening into the Scholar’s Garden, a place where visitors can rest after walking down the “street”. Here, travelers will see photographs of streams and mountains, accentuated by the bubbling sounds of an actual fountain in the exhibit. It encourages us to slow down and take it all in.

Through Serr’s lens, we see a small slice of everyday life in China, and with the layout of The Warehouse, a chance to find your way there too. It’s a powerful reminder not just of the passage of time, but of the humanity of the world – there’s a familiarity in the friendly smiles and family businesses portrayed in these photographs from a foreign land.



Tracey L. Sweeney