Although numerous books on the Cultural Revolution have been published, they do not analyze the profound shift in aesthetic values that occurred in China after the Communists took power. This fascinating book is the first to focus on artwork produced from the 1950s to the 1970s, when Mao Zedong was in leadership, and argues that important contributions were made during this period that require fuller consideration in Chinese art history, especially with relevance to the contemporary world.
Previously, historians have tended to dismiss the art of the Cultural Revolution as pure propaganda. The authors of this volume (historians, art historians, and artists) argue that while much art produced during this time was infused with politics, and individual creativity and displays of free thought were sometimes stifled and even punished, it is short sighted to overlook the aesthetic sophistication, diversity, and accessibility of much of the imagery.
Bringing together more than 200 extraordinary artworks, including oil paintings, ink scroll paintings, artist sketchbooks, posters, and objects from daily life, as well as primary documentation that has not been published outside of China or seen since the mid-20th century, this invaluable volume sheds new light on one of the most controversial and critical periods in history.
From Publishers Weekly
This lushly illustrated and highly informative catalogue argues that the art of the Cultural Revolution represents an important cultural movement in China necessary to comprehend both the revolution's context and contemporary Chinese art. Essays and interviews illustrate the collection's focused yet diversified scope: topics range from contemporary artist Zheng Shengtian's reflections on the influence of Soviet art on Chinese artists to portraits of Mao as artistic genre. Of particular note is an instructive introduction to the origins and implications of the Cultural Revolution by Harvard historian Roderick MacFarquhar; an absorbing essay on the No Name group, the Cultural Revolution's first underground art group; a revealing interview with contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing; and artist Zhao Yannian's rousing, lyrical account of his release from prison and makeshift trial at a struggle session. A useful appendix provides relevant historical documents including Mao's most influential speeches on cultural policy and a chronology of historical and art events from 1949 to 1979. This is a valuable and varied collection for those interested in the fascinating interplay between art and politics during the Cultural Revolution and the period's significance for contemporary China. 150 color and 50 b&w illus.
Melissa Chiu is director of the Asia Society Museum. Zheng Shengtian is an independent curator and has organized many international exhibitions. He has served as editor for various art publications, including Yishu-Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art.