Explore China in This New Photography Exhibition

We reviewed this transcendent journey.

“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 exhibition, “CHINA: Then & Now – Jan Serr,” running through Dec. 29 (1635 W. St. Paul Ave., thewarehousemke.org). Featuring 64 photographs taken by Serr, the gallery embarks on a journey that seemingly transcends time – showing the aged yet enduring traditions of the country juxtaposed against the modern, skyscraper-riddled skylines and bustling freeways.

Structured like a walk through a city street, thanks to movable barriers that create a labyrinthine path, visitors are given the chance to walk as Serr did through China’s “old town” hutong neighborhood streets, where the residents are shown amidst their everyday lives in large archival prints of Serr’s photography. There is a sense of timelessness – that the people photographed go about their day as they always have, remaining unaffected by any nudge shifting them toward modernity.

In the middle of the exhibition lies a large moon gate – a circular opening into the Scholar’s Garden, a place where visitors may rest after their walk through the “street.” Here, travelers will see photographs of streams and mountains, accented by the bubbling sounds of an actual fountain in the exhibit. It prompts 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 Warehouse’s layout, a chance to navigate it as well. It’s a powerful reminder not only of the passage of time, but of the humanity of the world – there’s familiarity in the friendly smiles and mom-and-pop businesses portrayed in these photographs from a foreign land.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s December issue.

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