“My Generation”: Young Chinese artists on American tour – in pictures

Barbara Pollack curates an exhibition of post-Mao Chinese art, currently on show at the Tampa Museum of Art.

The Tampa Museum of Art is holding an exhibition of emerging artists from post-Mao China until 28 September 2014. The show features the work of 27 young artists who explore life in contemporary China through individual points of view and unique works.

Chi Peng (b. 1981), 'Sprinting Forward 4' , 2004, C-print, 120 x 232.4 cm. Collection of Andrew Rayburn and Heather Guess. © Chi Peng. Image courtesy the artist.

Chi Peng (b. 1981), ‘Sprinting Forward 4’ , 2004, C-print, 120 x 232.4cm. Collection of Andrew Rayburn and Heather Guess. © Chi Peng. Image courtesy the artist.

My Generation: Young Chinese Artists” was launched on 7 June 2014 at the Tampa Museum of Art, Florida, United States and will be on show until 28 September. It will then travel to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, where it will be on view from 24 October 2014 through 18 January 2015. Curated by Chinese art expert Barbara Pollack, the exhibition is the first of its kind to focus only on China’s post-Mao generation.

Birdhead (founded 2004), 'The Light of Eternity No.3', 2012, black and white inkjet print, 1 of 36, 50 x 60 cm each. © Birdhead. Image courtesy the artists and ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai.

Birdhead (founded 2004), ‘The Light of Eternity No.3’, 2012, black and white inkjet print, 1 of 36, 50 x 60cm each. © Birdhead. Image courtesy the artists and ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai.

The post-Mao generation

All of the artists in the exhibition were born in China after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and after Mao’s death (1976). It is this aspect that sets this exhibition apart from other major showcases of contemporary Chinese art.

The YCAs (Young Chinese Artists), as Pollack refers to them, are not concerned with the politics of Communism or the Cultural Revolution unlike their predecessors or older peers. They are instead exploring and responding to the many facets of contemporary life in China, a country that has grown into one of the largest economic powers in the world in less than two decades.

Cui Jie (b. 1983), 'Jiu Xian Bridge Market', 2012, oil on canvas, 100 x 160 cm. © Cui Jie. Image courtesy Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai.

Cui Jie (b. 1983), ‘Jiu Xian Bridge Market’, 2012, oil on canvas, 100 x 160cm. © Cui Jie. Image courtesy Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai.

The YCAs have grown up through the Chinese art boom, with galleries, auction houses, biennales, fairs and 1,000 new museums. They have engaged with their artistic careers right after art school.

The globalisation of the art market in China is visible in their works: other than exploring their individual lives and perspectives, they don’t try to emphasise any “Chinese-ness” to impress western audiences.

Shi Zhiying (b. 1979), 'The Pacific Ocean', 2011, oil on canvas, 240 x 180 cm. Image courtesy a private collection and James Cohan Gallery, New York and Shanghai.

Shi Zhiying (b. 1979), ‘The Pacific Ocean’, 2011, oil on canvas, 240 x 180cm. Image courtesy a private collection and James Cohan Gallery, New York and Shanghai.

In the catalogue essay, Pollack says of the artists:

They are empowered, not only because they live in the fastest growing superpower in the world and are beneficiaries of its greatly expanding free market. They are empowered also because the art world has likewise been expanding globally during this period and seems poised to acknowledge them as fully-fledged art stars who have transcended the limitations of language and cultural differences.

Liu Di (b. 1985), 'Animal Regulation No. 5', 2010. C-print, 80 x 60 cm, edition of 10. Collection of Andrew Rayburn and Heather Guess. © Liu Di. Image courtesy of Pékin Fine Arts, Beijing.

Liu Di (b. 1985), ‘Animal Regulation No. 5’, 2010. C-print, 80 x 60cm, edition of 10. Collection of Andrew Rayburn and Heather Guess. © Liu Di. Image courtesy of Pékin Fine Arts, Beijing.

Jin Shan (b. 1977), 'No Man City', 2014, installation, Dubound paper, slide projector, aluminium, plastic, 244 x 610 x 183 cm. Tampa Museum of Art, Gift of the artist 2013.004. © Jin Shan. Image courtesy the artist.

Jin Shan (b. 1977), ‘No Man City’, 2014, installation, Dubound paper, slide projector, aluminium, plastic, 244 x 610 x 183cm. Tampa Museum of Art, Gift of the artist 2013.004. © Jin Shan. Image courtesy the artist.

Rebelling against commercialisation

At the opening of the exhibition, the curator told Whitehot Magazine that the exhibition represented new young artists from China who seemed to have grown up and inhabit a different country and a different century compared to the older generation of Chinese artists:

You have to really throw out stereotypes of Chinese contemporary art when you look at this work. These artists are rebelling against the commercialisation of China, which they see the older generation of artists having done.

Ma Qiusha (b. 1982), 'From No.4 Pingyuanli to No.4 Tianqiaobeili', 2007, video, colour, sound, 7 min. 54 sec. © Ma Qiusha. Image courtesy Beijing Commune.

Ma Qiusha (b. 1982), ‘From No.4 Pingyuanli to No.4 Tianqiaobeili’, 2007, video, colour, sound, 07m:54 s. © Ma Qiusha. Image courtesy Beijing Commune.

Zhao Zhao (b. 1982), 'Constellations II No.5', 2013, mirror with bullet holes, 160 x 120 x 17 cm. © Zhao Zhao. Image courtesy the artist and Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, Beijing/Hong Kong.

Zhao Zhao (b. 1982), ‘Constellations II No.5’, 2013, mirror with bullet holes, 160 x 120 x 17cm. © Zhao Zhao. Image courtesy the artist and Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, Beijing/Hong Kong.

The 27 artists in the exhibition are:

Double Fly Art Center (founded 2008), 'Double Fly Saves the World', 2012, video, colour, sound, 6 min. 22 sec. © Double Fly Art Center. Image courtesy the artists.

Double Fly Art Center (founded 2008), ‘Double Fly Saves the World’, 2012, video, colour, sound, 06m:22s. © Double Fly Art Center. Image courtesy the artists.

Xu Zhen (b. 1977), Produced by MadeIn, 'Fearless', 2012, mixed media on canvas tapestry, 316 x 645 cm. © Xu Zhen / MadeIN. Image courtesy of Long March Space, Beijing.

Xu Zhen (b. 1977), Produced by MadeIn, ‘Fearless’, 2012, mixed media on canvas tapestry, 316 x 645cm. © Xu Zhen / MadeIN. Image courtesy of Long March Space, Beijing.

Narratives and issues that the artists explore represent their individual styles and perspectives on life in contemporary China – whether they are examining and commenting on personal life or on broader political, economic and societal topics.

The variety of the artworks on show is extensive, for example, Birdhead’s photographic documentation explores life in Shanghai; Fang Lu’s personalised videos depict inevitable bodily changes and transformations in an era of plastic surgery; and Lu Yang’s multimedia works at the outer limits of new technology represent the frenetic pace of contemporary China.

Lu Yang (b. 1984), 'Wrathful King Kong Core', 2011, HD video, colur, sound, 14 min. 47 sec. © Lu Yang. Image courtesy Beijing Commune.

Lu Yang (b. 1984), ‘Wrathful King Kong Core’, 2011, HD video, colur, sound, 14m:47s. © Lu Yang. Image courtesy Beijing Commune.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: Chinese artists, art in China, emerging artists, museum shows, touring exhibitions, curatorial practice, events in the USA, picture feasts

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