Total Modernity and the Avant Garde in Twentieth Century Chinese Art
written by Minglu Gao
MIT Press | ISBN 9780262014946
Hardback – 424 pages
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To the extent that Chinese contemporary art has become a global phenomenon, it is largely through the groundbreaking exhibitions curated by Gao Minglu: "China/Avant-Garde" (Beijing, 1989), "InsideOut: New Chinese Art" (Asia Society, New York, 1998), and "TheWall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art" (Albright-Knox Art Gallery,2005) among them. As the first Chinese writer to articulate a distinctively Chinese avant-gardism and modernity -- one notdefined by Western chronology or formalism -- Gao Minglu is largelyresponsible for the visibility of Chinese art in the global art scene today. Contemporary Chinese artists tend to navigate between extremes, either embracing or rejecting a rich classical tradition. Indeed, for Chinese artists, the term "modernity" refers not to a new epoch or aesthetic but to a new nation -- modernityinextricably connects politics to art. It is this notion of "totalmodernity" that forms the foundation of the Chinese avant-gardeaesthetic, and of this book. Gao examines the many ways Chineseartists engaged withthis intrinsic total modernity, including the '85 Movement, politicalpop, cynical realism, apartment art,maximalism, and the museum age, encompassing the emergenceof local art museums and organizations as well as such major events as theShanghai Biennial. He describes the inner logic of the Chinese context whilelocating the art within the framework of a worldwide avant-garde. He vividlydescribes the Chinese avant-garde's embrace of a modernity that unifiespolitics, aesthetics, and social life, blurring the boundaries betweenabstraction, conception, and representation. Lavishly illustrated with colorimages throughout, this book will be a touchstone for all considerations ofChinese contemporary art.