Published: November 20, 2007
The Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College presents “Great Criticism: Paintings from Modern China,” an exhibition from the AMAM’s permanent collection that reflects the ongoing struggle between modernism and traditionalism prevalent in Chinese art during the second half of the Twentieth Century. “Great Criticism” will be on view in the museum’s Ambulatory Gallery until December 23.
Works range from paintings created specifically as propaganda to more recent works that appropriate the visual language of propaganda to criticize the Cultural Revolution’s impact on Chinese society.
The exhibition’s centerpiece, Shen Jiawei’s compelling painting “Climbing over the Great Snow Mountain,” 1977, depicts a group of Red Army soldiers braving the elements during the Long March of 1934″7, perhaps the pivotal event in the history of China’s Communist Party.
Shown alongside the painting are a group of nearly 15 preparatory drawings that provide a rare opportunity to examine how carefully Shen Jiawei developed the painting’s composition, figures and other details.
Works by two leading artists of the Chinese avant-garde are also included. Wang Guangyi’s thought-provoking “Chanel,” 1994, from his “Great Criticism” series, juxtaposes the anonymous images of the “mass criticism” posters widely circulated during the Cultural Revolution with advertising imagery and consumer brand names.
Huang Hancheng’s wry “Boys on the Town,” 1997, from his best-known series, “Suffused with the News,” shows a group of fashionable young men who have literally become part of current events, as Huang has transformed the central figure into a collage of newspaper clippings and advertising posters.
Exhibition organizer Jason Trimmer, curator of education at the AMAM, says, “Chinese art is now one of the most important areas of contemporary art, and the AMAM was forward-thinking when it came to collecting it. Several of the artists represented have become very well-known since their works entered the collection.”
The Allen Memorial Art Museum, at 87 North Main Street, is also free and open to the public. For information, www.oberlin.edu/allenart or 440-775-8665.
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