'Post-Mao Dreaming'

WHAT: The show at the Arthur Ross Gallery (220 S. 34th St.) is “Post-Mao Dreaming: Chinese Contemporary Art,” which opened on Jan. 22 and runs through April 3.

IN PRINT: The show features more than 30 prints, drawings, photographs and paintings—all from Chinese artists. Most of these artists honed their crafts in the 1980s, but the show also displays work from practitioners working today: the Luo Brothers, a trio that creates works on paper and carves wooden panels; Yue Minjun, who is best-known for oil paintings of himself frozen in laughter; and Qin Feng, who often pairs ink with elements such as tea, coffee and oil paint.

PAST, MEET PRESENT: All of the artists in the show have worked in the post-Cultural Revolution era in China following the death of Mao Zedong, the communist dictator who led China from 1949 until his death in 1976. The exhibit bridges China’s Maoist era and the post-Mao age.

EXHIBIT ORIGINS: Part of the show originated at the Smith College Museum of Art, and includes several pieces given to the school from Joan Lebold Cohen, exhibition curator, and her husband Jerome. “They both witnessed the excessive restrictions of the late-Mao period,” says Arthur Ross Gallery Director Lynn Marsden-Atlass of the couple, who lived in China for many years. “After Mao Zedong’s death ... they witnessed the gradual increasing freedom that artists achieved.”

ON DISPLAY: The show features several woodcut prints, including “Dream” by renowned graphic artist Chen Haiyan and “Creation” by Xu Bing, who routinely explores themes of books, legibility and their meaning. Also in the show is Zhang Dali’s 19-color silkscreen, “AK-47,” which has a blurred image of a woman’s face obscured by an overlay of the words “AK-47.” Also of note: Xu Tan’s “Untitled 1990-S,” a response to the first Gulf War that incorporates oil and sand (and a plastic ham) on the canvas.

PUTTING IT IN CONTEXT: The Gallery will host a Lunar New Year celebration on Feb. 4 from 5 to 7 p.m. with a cappella music by PennYo, traditional food and a calligraphy demonstration. On Wednesday, Feb. 23 at 4:30 p.m., the Gallery, along with the Center for East Asian Studies, will co-sponsor a panel discussion: “Post-Mao in Context” with Jacques deLisle, the Stephen A. Cozen Professor of Law at Penn and chair of the Center for East Asian Studies; and Nancy Steinhardt, professor of East Asian art, curator of Chinese art at the Penn Museum and the graduate chair of East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

MORE INFO: Learn more about the exhibition at www.upenn.edu/ARG or call 215-898-3617. Group tours of the show are available in both English and Chinese.

Originally published on February 3, 2011