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Contact: Christine Payton NOV. 16, 2009
(337) 482-6397, payton@louisiana.edu
The Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has successfully negotiated the presentation of an exhibition of Contemporary Chinese art.

“ As a university museum our mission is to offer exhibitions that provoke thought and create dialogue” says Mark Tullos, museum director. “This is probably one of the most significant international projects undertaken by an American museum in the south.”

Exhibitions of contemporary works from China have recently gained attention in the Western market through exhibitions at major galleries. Few, however, have appeared in the southern U.S. cities. The Hilliard University Art Museum is the first institution to bring contemporary Chinese artists to this region. The exhibition focuses on visual language as a thematic link between artworks. The exhibition opens to the public on Jan. 14, 2010, and will run through the spring.

In the exhibition Visually Speaking, 11 Chinese artists were selected by Hilliard Museum Curator of Exhibitions Dr. Lee Gray for their references to western stylistic history. The exhibition shows how Chinese artists have adapted eastern ideas and art forms to create new styles of art.

In each of the two- and three-dimensional works exhibited, there is an obvious merging of Eastern and Western visual languages. While in some works the reference to Western culture seems adoring especially to the visual culture lexicon, in other works it appears to parody the West, its cultural symbols and values. Each participating artist presents a multifaceted view of contemporary China as it struggles to define itself in the post-cultural revolution and its new place on the world stage.

As these artists explore bridges between past, present and future, familiar symbols of China’s cultural heritage are merged with iconic images from western cultures. For example, the ubiquitous image of Mao Zedong is as pervasive in these new works as it was during and even after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) ended with his death in 1976. Many of the artists in this exhibition were born during the period of the Cultural Revolution. Hence, they represent the generation of artists who came-of-age during a time of enormous change in Chinese culture, and they are the link to China’s past, its present and its future. Caught between the dense weight of history and tradition, this generation is the first in many years to experience a connection to the west. Therefore, they have reinterpreted their traditions according to their perceptions of American art.

The evolution of contemporary Chinese art parallels that of American arts after WWII in a number of ways. Like their American counterparts in the 1960s and 1970s, Chinese artists of the 1980s challenged social conditions in China and questioned established rules of social order and morality. Feminism and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s challenged social and cultural paradigms in the U.S. which coincide with the Cultural Revolution in China. While the emphasis in China was toward communal prosperity in the economy and psyche, which played out in the form of homogeneity, the counter-culture generation in the US argued for similar communal democratization, but one based much more on the freedom to be individual. And, just as the US counter-culture/baby-boom generation came of age in the 1960s bringing social and political issues to the forefront of society, the one-child generation of China’s Cultural Revolution is breaking ground with new challenges to the social and political issues of contemporary China.

The museum will also publish a 100-page exhibition catalogue containing essays by Dr. Gray and Lilly Wei, a New York-based independent curator, essayist and critic.

The exhibition is sponsored in part by, Hotel Sufitel, and the Virginia Miller Gallery in Miami, FL, and a cultural development grant from the Lafayette Convention and Visitor’s Commission. The exhibition will travel nationally after the Lafayette debut.


About UL Lafayette
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is the second largest university in the state, with over 16,000 students. It’s a public institution that awards bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. It includes diverse offerings from the humanities to scientific research and leads the nation in areas like computer science, biology and nursing. Its student-athletes – Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns – compete in NCAA Division I, the highest level of collegiate competition.

Document last revised Monday, November 16, 2009 3:23 PM

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