Democracy Forever:
Chinese Artists Perceptions of Global Politics
October 22°XNovember 27, 2004
Plum Blossoms Gallery
555 West 25th Street, Ground Floor
New York, NY 10001 T: 212.719.7008
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10:30am - 6:30pm Sunday and Monday Closed

Plum Blossoms Gallery (New York) is pleased to present Democracy Forever: Chinese Artists Perceptions of Global Politics, a group show featuring emerging talent from mainland China and influential gallery artists working across a range of media. Part of a series of group shows designed by the gallery to consider contemporary Chinese art from an informed, topical perspective, Democracy Forever addresses recent developments in China in relation to the current state of global affairs. Entry into the World Trade Organization, plans to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the rise of internet culture, and booming business with international investors has prompted a new wave of global consciousness in China. At the same time, American military action overseas has given rise to worldwide agitation and a re-evaluation of °•the democratic ideals°¶ used to justify such maneuvers. Chinese art has a prestigious history of political commentary, but now Chinese artists are addressing politics from more complex, ironic perspectives.
The show takes as its starting point a group of artists looking at people in relation to one another from broadened, universal viewpoints. Based in Beijing°¶s hotbed 798 space and one of China°¶s bright young painters,
Li Songsong works in monochrome tones, studying large concentrations of people and the construction of memory through aesthetic interpretation of the archival photograph. His new painting The Decameron (oil on canvas, 2004) shows a government assembly hall where the undeniably grand scope of Chinese politics is taken in from a vista-like perspective. Wei Dong, working in acrylic on canvas, creates satirical mise-en-scene where sassy beauties both assume and undermine the trappings of historical empire, with Uncle Sam, Mao, Bismarck, and Napoleon vogueing center-stage. And Li Tianyuan°¶s photographic triptychs, included in exhibition at ICP and Asia Society this summer, imagine the individual standing contemplative between heaven and earth, macroscopic and microscopic extremes.
Other work reacts directly to turmoil overseas: multimedia artist Qing Qing°¶s installation boxes, in which representations of chaos and the World Trade towers emerge from amidst undertones of revisited trauma, play upon a global climate of terror and fear; and young collective UNMASK, also working out of 798 and making their international debut, use industrial materials, lighting, and prominent symbols of war to reprocess international media frenzy in their free-standing, stainless steel hemispheres.

Finally, the legacy of totalitarian regime has been a strong, continuing influence on recent Chinese art. On offer to collectors for the first time since its original exhibition in 1994, Zhu Wei°¶s large-scale Comrade Captain #3 (ink and colour on paper) stands out as a reflexive study of the era of high-Maoism. Cinematic, decadent, humanistic, it suggests through its studied portrayal of a languidly smoking military officer an experience of both corruption and regret. In counterpoint, Ji Dachun°¶s acrylic drawings on canvas diminish the scale of worldwide communist icons, isolating them as fragile individuals in stark relief to the masses they led, while Wei Qingji, working in ink and mixed media, employs violent, childlike rendering to depict schematic narratives of government and dissent, and Wu Shaoxiang defies global monetary authorities by welding together circulating currency into fittingly abstracted Mao figurines.
The collected artists all represent a China in transition, where constructs of citizenship, rights, expression and government are undergoing tenuous transformation. As the Chinese Communist Party continues to explore liberal socialism, a past image of dissident °•avant-garde°¶ looking to the west as a model of individuated freedom and inspiration is slowly merging with that of artists using their works to comment on and critique not only domestic policy but international events as well, applying vision, humour and technical ability to an enduring realpolitik of creative survival and growth.


Copyright 2004 by Plum Blossoms (International) Ltd. All rights reserved.