Art from China's Cultural Revolution in New Exhibit

by ekramer on May 16, 2008

An exhibition of rarely seen posters from China’s Cultural Revolution opens this weekend in Louisville.

“Revolutionary Voices” at the University of Louisville’s Cressman Center for Visual Arts features posters printed during the movement launched in 1966 by Mao Zedong. The images reflect policies of the Cultural Revolution, which glorified the proletariat and depicted happy workers, who sometimes carry weapons.

Youn Ju Yu, who is a graduate student in curatorial studies, assembled the exhibit from works she found at the Crane House, a local organization focused on Asian history and culture.

She says the exhibit illustrates China’s history and the revolution’s legacy in contemporary art.

“What I’m trying to present is what symbols where used to enhance the political meanings of posters, how political messages were spread to mass audiences and how the posters influenced contemporary China,” she says.

The exhibit looks into how art ws used as propaganda during China’s Cultural Revolution.

The late Chinese leader Mao Zedong launched the ideological revolution to radically change China’s culture. It promoted an idealized view of Communism, but under Mao intellectuals were sent to rural labor camps and millions were forcibly displaced from their homes.

Youn Ju Yu, a native of Korea, researched how China’s leader, Mao Zedong, politicized art and put all artists under strict control of the Communist Party. She says the art promoted the Communist Party’s specific policies.

“It conveys clear messages and themes such as educating children, modernizing agriculture, reducing conflict between the classes and harmonizing China’s many different ethnics,” she says. “All artists were instructed to use posters to express cultural symbols of peace and happiness and good fortune in the new China.”

The exhibit also explores how these images and the artistic styles used in the posters live on in Chinese contemporary art.

The show’s opening reception is tonight. The Cressman Gallery will host discussions about the Chinese Cultural Revolution during the exhibition which runs through June 28.

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