Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Mao Xuhui and Wang Guangyi

The Artists of the Post Cultural Revolution and 1989 era: Trendsetters
in Chinese Contemporary Art

The Art of the Post Cultural Revolution has defined the very fabric of
modern China. The world of the post Mao years has seen China emerge as
force in many industries. This is especially seen in the artwork that
came after 1976. When examining the art from this period one must
understand that works presented represent the freethinking ideology of
the time. When Deng Xiaoping opened up to the West, the flow of
Western ideas and styles returned to China. As a result, artists like
Wang Guangyi and Mao Xuhui. The artists who emerged challenged the way
Chinese looked at art. They brought a more philosophical quality to
their works. In doing this they showed that people of a communist
nation had the creativity to change the way people looked at the
Wang Guangyi is an artist who was born in 1956 during
the height of the Mao years. His family was very poor and he was
taught that he was part of a greater collective. Today when one thinks
of Wang Guangyi's art they think about his satire of Cultural
Revolution propaganda and Western consumerism. He graduated from art
school in 1984, four years before Tiananmen Square protests. After
1989, Wang Guangyi was a leader in the New Art Movement. He gained
much recognition for his series the Great Criticism. His artistic
style during this period was cool, revolutionary and creative. He
challenged China's communist heritage and addiction to Western
products. His most famous painting is the soldier, worker, farmer
alongside the traditional Coca-Cola emblem.
Wang Guangyi's artistic style is one that lures the
viewer in with the historic imagery of China's propaganda while
providing current commentary on consumerism. In doing this he
illustrates that China has gone from being a strict communist nation
that believed in government's story to a capitalist nation who is
consumed by consumer products. Essentially, his images poke fun of
both the past and the present. The dramatic nature of the figures
shows how people were so easily molded in to believing the Communist
ideology. The corporate logos placed on the painting illustrate that
consumerism is the new propaganda of China.
Another artist who was a major influence in Chinese
contemporary art was Mao Xuhui who came about during the 1980's. When
studying Chinese contemporary art, one finds that 80's produced the
forerunners that dramatically influenced later artists. Mao Xuhui
wasn't as popular as Wang Guangyi but his style was influential in
helping future artists think outside the box. He is best known for his
series of scissor paintings. These works were simple with very little
in the painting. These paintings were produced in 1992 only three
years after the Tiananmen protests. The scissor paintings are believed
to represent numerous sections of life and society in China. When
looking at these paintings one sees that they have a very modern
outlook. What the artist is trying to say is not shown directly.
Instead, the viewer is given the challenge to interpret what the
painting really means. Mao Xuhui was artist during a period in China
when the younger generation was fueled by intellectual curiosity. The
artists who came about after 1989 where artists who looked at art
through a deeply through a critical and philosophical lens. His
scissor paintings are a product of what he called "artistic
meditation" By picking scissors as the topic of his series, he made a
statement that he was breaking from the traditional mode.
The artistic era that came after 1989 is one that set
no boundaries for artists. Chinese artists were given the chance to
develop their own style and not follow the regimented style of the
government. What these two artists show is that China's artistic
movements challenged the traditional ideology. The greatest artists in
history are those that changed the way people looked at art. Those who
emerged after 1989 have made mark that will forever be associated with
the period that China allowed its people to think freely.