On View Now: Spotlight on a New Generation in Chinese Art | by Cleveland Museum of Art | CMA Thinker | Jul, 2020

On View Now: Spotlight on a New Generation in Chinese Art | by Cleveland Museum of Art | CMA Thinker | Jul, 2020

Technically, the prints combine digital design and woodblock printing with oil-based inks. While the prints resemble black-and-white photography, notice that the haunting, jet-black pupils of the two men do not show any reflection of light. This technique indicates that these are prints, not photographs.Yan Wenliang (1893–1988), on the left, was one of the fathers of Chinese oil painting and an important educator and art academy director. Qi Baishi (1864–1954), on the right, remains one of China’s best-known modern ink artists, who excelled in simple, witty ink sketches of everyday subjects. Below is a painting by Qi Baishi in the CMA collection that depicts shrimp in his characteristically simple but expressive brushwork.Shrimps 蝦, 1900s. Qi Baishi 齊白石 (Chinese, 1864–1957). Hanging scroll; ink on paper; painting: 67.6 x 34.7 cm. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Sherman E. Lee, 1954.781Dictionary, 2009. Liu Dan 劉丹 (Chinese, b. 1953). Watercolor on paper; 200 x 260 cm. The Xiling Collection, 3.2020. © Liu DanArtist Liu Dan is best known for his draftsman-like paintings of rocks. Dictionary demonstrates his masterful skill as a brush painter: it appears three dimensional but is simply a watercolor drawing on paper. The depiction of the book shows the characters that have formed the basis of Chinese culture, language, and art for millennia.Photo courtesy of the artist.The book on which this painting is based is so small that it easily rests in the artist’s palm. It dates to the Republican period of the 1920s and ’30s, a time of change and reforms. Chinese dictionaries printed after the Communist takeover in 1949 contained simplified characters, to encourage literacy. The two pages revealed in the painting define words associated with “jade” and “water” — opposing dualities of liquid and hardness, of yielding and unyielding, of yin and yang. As such, Dictionary is a monument to traditional Chinese literature and philosophy.Square Word Calligraphy — Quotations from Chairman Mao 英文方块字書法 — 毛主席語錄, 2000. Xu Bing 徐冰 (Chinese, b. 1955). Set of four hanging scrolls; ink on paper; each panel: 248 x 69.2 cm. Collection of the artist, 4.2020. © Xu BingWriting also interests artist Xu Bing. As a child, Xu had access to a world of books: his mother worked in the library and his father in the history department at Peking University. During the Cultural Revolution, Xu had to write propaganda posters, which taught him the power of words and text. This work shows his self-designed “square word calligraphy” for Western readers. Actually, what is written here is English and — believe it or not — it can be read by English readers. Every little square that resembles a Chinese character is in fact an English word composed of letters of the Roman alphabet. For example, the leftmost line starting with the top character reads “QUOTATIONS,” and the second character reads “FROM.” The third is “CHAIRMAN,” the fourth is “MAO,” and so on. The text presents Mao’s Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art held in 1942, in which Mao defined the role of art and artists under Communist Party rule.Square Word Calligraphy — Quotations from Chairman Mao 英文方块字書法 — 毛主席語錄, 2000. Xu Bing 徐冰 (Chinese, b. 1955). Set of four hanging scrolls; ink on paper; each panel: 248 x 69.2 cm. Collection of the artist, 4.2020. © Xu BingFinally there is a delicate pair of silk shoes by the female artist Peng Wei. Peng Wei’s work demonstrates a refined eleg­­­ance and unique aesthetic. The soles of this pair of shoes, made of transparent silk, are painted with erotic scenes that refer to the past, showing female figures with bound feet. The ballerina-style shoes, however, reflect a modern and more liberal way of living. The work’s title, Good Things Come in Pairs 8, references a Chinese proverb: Hǎoshì chéng shuāng. It can also be read as an allusion to the Chinese philosophical principle that when the forces of yin and yang — or male and female — are in balance, harmony and order are achieved.Good Things Come in Pairs 8 好事成双-8, 2011. Peng Wei 彭薇 (Chinese, b. 1974) Silk: plain weave, painted with ink and colors; 28 x 18 x 5 cm. Dudley P. Allen Fund, 2017.64. © Peng Wei


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