Contemporary Art of Artist Shen Jingdong - Chinese Contemporary Art
Shen Jingdong

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2011 :: Shen Jingdong :: Visiting Artist in Residence in Belgium

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2010 :: Asian Art news Cover Story :: Yesterday’s Hero

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Chinese painter and sculptor Shen Jingdong makes art that features everyman — himself — as hero. Shen is at the center of his art wrestling with Communist ideology, change, and a propaganda machine that demands heroes. His figurative art speaks to the underlying desire of people to be a part of society and not separate from it.

By Ian Findlay

Every generation of painters and sculptors seeks to establish its own visual individuality, its own iconography through which its many visions of the world will be interpreted. The iconography of classical Chinese painting was dominated for centuries by traditional paintings’ motifs and content, from flora and fauna to interpretations of majestic landscape to calligraphy and formal figuration. The iconography of traditional art forms had passed safely from one generation of masters to another and spoke to the comfort and security of a long, well-established visual culture, that included print-making, carving, sculpture, ceramics, and the decorative and functional arts.

In the first half of the 20th century, however, Chinese art’s orthodoxy was challenged by young artists who had been influenced by new Western ideas and by the political and social changes brought about by such events as the 1911 Revolution and the May Fourth Movement of 1919. The calls for artistic freedom were clear as was the desire to accept Western art influences through which to create a modern visual art that spoke to society as a whole. The demands of the artists of the early years of the 20th century found voice again among post-Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) artists’ groups, most notably the Stars Group of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since then, artists in each decade have established their own iconography through which we have come to interpret and understand China’s changing cultural world, artists’ expectations, and the rapid modernization of Chinese society.

With the opening of China to the outside world in the 1980s, under the late Deng Xiaoping, many artists could not reject China’s official art quickly enough, especially the art made during the Cultural Revolution, which was considered by many to be little more than propaganda.

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2009 :: Shen Jingdong :: Visiting Artist in Residence in Spain

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2009 :: Shen Jingdong gives and artist’s studio talk with students of JingXi School

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2008 :: Revolution

By Benjamin Genocchio

“Revolution” Not long ago hardly any galleries in Chelsea were showing Asian contemporary art. Now there are dozens, including those specializing in Asian artists. Chinese art dominates, partly because, simply, some of the best art being made today is from China.

For evidence you might visit ChinaSquare, a new gallery dedicated to Chinese art and located high in the Chelsea Arts Tower. Inside the gallery is a spirited group show put together by Fang Lei and Jonathan Goodman, featuring the work of a dozen contemporary Chinese artists, among them emerging talents like Cao Xiao-dong, Shen Jingdong and Jing Kewen, as well as veterans Zhang Hongtu and Li Luming.

“Revolution” is the overarching theme, with the central idea being to spotlight the influence of propaganda imagery from the Cultural Revolution (about 1966-76) in the work of contemporary artists. It’s imagery that was made to serve political ends and to promote revolutionary spirit among the Chinese people.

The show, not surprisingly, contains lots of toung-in-cheek riffs on devotional portraits of Mao, along with the images of cheery peasents in the countryside or model workers, like Mr. Shen’s glossy, idealized oil paintings of Chinese military personnel. Other artworks point to another sort of revolution; China’s current obsession with materialism. With luck this revolution won’t be as corrosive as the last.

The exhibit runs through January 12 at ChinaSquare, Chelsea Arts Tower, 545 West 25th Street, eighth floor, 212-255-8886, www.chinasquareny.com

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