“Looking East” Exhibition Showcases China’s Up-And-Coming Artists, Reflecting The Generational Difference Between Young Artists And ’90s Superstars
With regular news about China’s most famous artists selling works for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in some cases well over a million dollars, over the past five years, it can be easy to forget that China’s art world is in a constant state of flux, with thousands of young artists coming out of art schools and vying for attention. Although artists like Yue Minjun and Zhang Xiaogang have quickly become major global art stars, China’s younger artists are little known outside of their home country (and, more often than not, are unknown there as well), so the news that Kansas City is mounting a relatively large-scale and far-ranging exhibition of works by young Chinese artists must give some of these art greenhorns some hope for their future prospects.
The “Looking East” group exhibition, held at the Byron C. Cohen Gallery for Contemporary Art, follows previous solo shows of Chinese artists Hong Chun Zhang, Chong Siew Ying and Deng Wushu at the gallery, and offers viewers a glimpse at many of China’s burgeoning young talents. From the Kansas City Star:
Three prints by Yang Qian seem shallow and self-indulgent compared with [Sheng Qi's politically-motivatd] oils. Yang wields tremendous skill to produce voyeuristic fantasies of spying on beautiful women through moist windowpanes or in foggy mirrors.
In the lower gallery, Feng Zhengjie offers three striking silkscreens of women. Unlike Yang’s bathers caught unaware, these women are explosive products of the collision between consumer culture and traditional Chinese culture.
“Chinese Portrait Series No. 53” presents a fiery redhead. Her windblown hair recalls product ads of the ’80s, and her porcelain, angular features resemble the commercial works of Patrick Nagel. Intriguingly, her eyes look in opposite directions, perhaps to express being divided by a “duplicity of ideology,” to borrow a phrase from the artist’s biography.
Three prints by Guo Wei cast defiant adolescents as protagonists of individualism in a country that favors the collective. Silkscreen editions of his acrylics on canvas, these brazenly graphic images display teenagers vying for attention with the energy of young, brassy MySpace users.
Two figures make their presence known in “Chambre Ave Nuage.” Against a gray background decorated with generic, fair-weather clouds, a boy in loose-fitting clothes opens his mouth wide as if to shout. A girl in a white wig and spaghetti-strap slip strikes a pose as if for a camera.
The images in this exhibit are visually arresting. They also offer a fascinating window onto how young Chinese artists view political and cultural developments in their country.