Harvard Art Museum Crossing Lines - Sep 5 - Jan 5


  • NEW YORK, New York
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  • August 03, 2011

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Zhang Wei, Temple of Heaven 1, 1976. Oil on paperboard, 20.5 x 25 cm

An exhibition of work by pioneering artists in China from the 1970s and 1980s, on view at China Institute Gallery from September 15 through December 11, 2011, will provide important clues to the development of contemporary Chinese art as we know it today. Blooming in the Shadows: Unofficial Chinese Art, 1974-1985 will offer a unique opportunity in the U.S. to witness the artwork created in China during the critical decade leading up to the Communist Party’s 1985 decision to allow modern artistic practices. A full-color catalogue will accompany the exhibition, which is organized by China Institute Gallery.

The exhibition focuses on paintings and sculpture from three unofficial groups of artists, the No Names, the Stars, and the Grass Society, which pushed beyond Maoism in the early post-Cultural Revolution era. Each group pursued creatively diverse paths to artistic freedoms under the harsh political strictures and against the accepted aesthetic norms of the time. The work they produced opened the door for the avant-garde movement to emerge in China and paved the way for Chinese artists working today.

Blooming in the Shadows: Unofficial Chinese Art, 1974-1985 asks the question of why—following 35 years of Socialist Realism—this internationally oriented artwork suddenly appeared and how it captured the attention of the global art world. Included in the exhibition are paintings, works on paper, and sculpture, some of which are politically charged and all of which represent a substantial sense of bravery on the part of the artists.

“These young men and women developed outside the mainstream of China’s official art world during a time when all human activity in China was tightly controlled,” write the exhibition co-curators: Kuiyi Shen, Director of the Chinese Studies Program and Professor of Asian Art History, Theory, and Criticism, at the University of California San Diego, and Julia Andrews, Professor of Art History at Ohio State University and a specialist in Chinese painting and modern Chinese art. “Despite rather different approaches to art, they shared a deeply-rooted opposition to the entrenched institutions of propaganda, an idealistic vision, and a passionate desire to express themselves freely.”

Artists included in the exhibition are Ai Weiwei, Chen Jialing, Chen Juyuan, Du Xia, Huang Rui, Jiang Depu, Li Shan, Li Shuang, Liu Shi, Ma Desheng, Ma Kelu, Qiu Deshu, Shi Zhenyu, Tian Shuying, Wang Aihe, Wang Keping, Wei Hai, Yan Li, Zhang Wei, Zheng Zigang, and Zheng Ziyan.

As Stars artist Qu Leilei inscribed on a drawing in 1983, “I grew up in a time when morality ruled, but without principles; right and wrong prevailed, but without standards; and behavior had no rules.”

The exhibition is directed by Willow Hai Chang, Director of China Institute Gallery, and co-curated by Shen and Andrews, who were the curators of the modern section of the landmark China 5000 Years exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.


Related Programs

Curator’s Lecture: Thursday, September 15, 2011, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Guest co-curators Kuiyi Shen and Julia Andrews will lecture on the three unofficial groups of artists included in the exhibition.


Symposium: Saturday, September 17, 2011, 10:00 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Blooming in the Shadows: Art and Culture at the Dawn of the Post-Mao Era

Renowned scholars and artists will speak on history, law, art history, literature, performance, and art to contextualize this groundbreaking exhibition.


For more information and registration, please visit: http://www.chinainstitute.org/art-culture/exhibition-related-programs/ or contact Lillia Chrysostome at 212.744.8181 ext. 111 or lchrysostome@chinainstitute.org


Additional Information

China Institute Gallery is located at 125 East 65th Street (between Park and Lexington Avenues). Gallery hours are daily Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $7, $4 for students and seniors, and free for children under 12. Admission is free on Tuesday and Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Group tours can also be arranged. For more information, the public can call 212-744-8181 x121, email gallery@chinainstitute.org or visit www.chinainstitute.org/gallery.


About China Institute

China Institute advances a deeper understanding of China through programs in education, culture, business and art in the belief that cross-cultural understanding strengthens our global community.


Founded in 1926 by a group of American and Chinese educators, China Institute in America is the oldest bicultural non-profit organization in the U.S. to focus exclusively on China. The organization promotes the appreciation of Chinese heritage and provides the historical context for understanding contemporary China. Programs, activities, courses and seminars are offered on the visual and performing arts, culture, history, music, philosophy, language and literature for the general public, children, and teachers, as well as for business.


China Institute Gallery, established in 1966, is distinct among the museums of New York City. It was the first in the United States to showcase Chinese art exclusively on a regular basis. Today, China Institute Gallery is New York's only non-commercial exhibition space solely dedicated to Chinese art and is known for its innovative thematic and scholarly exhibitions, publications and related art education programs.


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