ARENA 1 is pleased to announce the opening of China Avant Garde II, the second exhibition at the gallery of contemporary Chinese art curated by Christine Duval in collaboration with LIMN Art Gallery in San Francisco and LIMN, Los Angeles. The artists in this exhibition live and work in Beijing or Shanghai and are part of a new wave of artists who have taken the art world by storm over the past five years.
Featured are the Gao Brothers whose performances and photographs direct our gaze onto the most rapid and profound urbanization and globalization in history. Enormously influenced by the Cultural Revolution (their father was shot during its height after being accused of “bourgeois and intellectual tendencies”) The Gao Brothers’ work is provocative, poignant, poetic and often overtly political. Their photographs have on and off been subjected to censorship for over 15 years. Particularly troublesome to the Chinese authorities is the recurring Mao portrait that has become a cornerstone of their work. MISS MAO, a fiberglass sculpture representing a stylized Mao bust with a Pinocchio nose, which is part of this exhibition, is the latest addition to this growing body of work. The Gao Brothers are currently representing China at Photography Festival in Arles, France.
Also exhibiting in an accompanying group show are: Yu Hang a young photographer who interrogates the Chinese tradition of the concubine. In photographs reminiscent of old filmstrips of Chinese beauties, she pictures modern women as concubines, who, unlike Geishas, were sought out for the sole purpose of bearing a son when a man’s wife could not. How far has modern China come, the artist asks, in its preference for sons over daughters?
Inspired by both traditional story telling of Chinese Opera and contemporary images of the West, Zhang Xianyong carefully stages tableaux in photographs that are fresh and humorous. He mixes Eastern and Western civilization, foreign and native culture in multiple combinations whose disorders of time and space, intersections of multiple time points, and reinterpretation of characters and events form the special characteristics of his work.
Wang Ningde’s life is book-ended by two of the most tumultuous periods in China’s recent history: he grew up in the 1970s as China opened its borders to a flood of imported goods and ideas, and today, a modern China with even greater economic and cultural growth. In his hauntingly striking black-and-white photographs, he captures the tension between an ever-changing contemporary China and the alwayspresent memory of the Cultural Revolution.
Weng Yunpeng’s paintings invariably include the television set which has become a defining part of Chinese culture; from urban settings in Beiing to desolated streets in the Chinese countryside, television, often shared with others in public spaces, touches everyone. Yunpeng’s beautiful landscapes and desolated streets yield center stage to a television screen, which like an umbilical cord, connects it the farthest reaches of China to the outside world,
Shen Liang’s paintings are thick and bold. Inspired by Chinese movie posters, they recall tales of a strong and grand China. Heroes of all sort like guerillas girl, soldiers and peasants are posed victoriously against all manner of perceived enemies – whether capitalism from the west or the influence of Japan.
Shen Xiaotong paints portraits in a most “honest” way. Floating on a blue background, yellow faces with piercing brown eyes out from the canvas. Sometimes the brown has become blue, turning the invitation to look into a feeling of alienation. “I have become fascinated with those fleeting moments: faces of laughter, confusion, doubts and empty stares, which now only exist in distant memories. I am what the motherland made me to be, and what I create is to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me and made me.”