Four internationally renowned artists – Zeng Fanzhi, Wang Guangyi, Shen Jiawei and Hung Liu – reflect on the rapidly changing terrain of contemporary Chinese culture in lush, poetic paintings on loan from the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College. Political Pop meets expressionism, realism, history and nostalgia in paintings that comment on China’s present and future while evoking its political past.
During China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the only manner of artistic expression permitted was a form of official propaganda that glorified the Communist regime through heroic images of peasants and workers. China remains a Communist state, but since 1978 when the country’s economy opened up to the rest of the world, its culture has undergone a true revolution.
The artists in this exhibition exploit the freedom they now have to draw on all eras of Chinese and Western art. In doing so, they not only speak of their individual experiences navigating the social and political upheaval of the last three decades, but they also reflect the clash of outmoded Socialist ideas with the consumerism brought about by capitalist reforms.
Recognizing the depth and diversity of China’s post-1978 art scene, Charles Mason, then Curator of Asian Art at the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, began in the late 1990s to expand the Allen’s collection of Chinese art into the present. The AMAM continues to foster its holdings of contemporary Chinese art, which include the paintings featured in Culture Revolution.
This exhibition is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by the museum’s Evelyne Shaffer Endowment for Exhibitions.