ShanghART Singapore is pleased to present a group exhibition The Avant-Garde is Not Afraid of a Long March from 17 February to 18 April 2019. Featuring works from Birdhead, Chen Xiaoyun, Li Shan, Ouyang Chun, XU ZHEN®, Shi Yong, Sun Xun, Yang Fudong, Yang Zhenzhong, Zeng Fanzhi, Zhang Enli, and Zhou Tiehai, the exhibition bring together twelve artists of different generations. While the seemingly disparate mixture of works by pioneer and younger generation artists defies linearity, their individual breakthroughs and progressions chart the evolution of Chinese contemporary art through the years. Taking its name from the title of Zhou Tiehai’s piece, the exhibition is a remark on the unwavering spirit of breaking norms and traditions in artmaking, while also highlighting perseverance as an integral part of the process.
One of the significant moments in the history of Chinese contemporary art occurred in 1989, when the China/Avant-Garde Exhibition survived for a mere two hours before being shut down. As a participant of that exhibition and a leading figure in the Chinese avant-garde movement, Li Shan demonstrates his perceptiveness as an observer of his times through his political pop paintings and artistic approach to bioethics - a topic hardly discussed in art during its time. The work exhibited comes from his Rouge series, wherein he fuses political icons with abstract representations of a lotus flower; a symbolic reference to femininity and frivolousness.
Later artists such as Shi Yong, Zeng Fanzhi and Zhou Tiehai carved out new paths in the Chinese art scene despite the general cultural stagnation after the episode. One of the pioneers in installation and media art in China, Shi Yong took a decade-long hiatus in his artistic practice to engage with the arts scene from the perspectives of various stakeholders, only returning to making art in recent years. Zeng Fanzhi’s artistic practice has seen various changes over the years, while Zhou Tiehai has reinvented himself in taking on directorial roles in museum and art fair.
While Zhang Enli and Ouyang Chun depicts their observations of the mundane and everyday life through paintings, Yang Fudong, Chen Xiaoyun, and Yang Zhenzhong rose to prominence in working with new media art and video works since early 1990s. The works shown in the exhibition reveal the different sides of their practice, and their persistent efforts in exploring different themes and mediums.
This exploration can also be seen in Xu Zhen, Birdhead, and Sun Xun’s practices, as their works often strive to reconcile various subject matters across a wide spectrum, presented in different mediums ranging from installations, photography, painting, sculptures, woodblock printing, and conceptual art. As if taking on the mantle of their predecessors, they strive to achieve individual success through persistent rejection of the stable and comfortable for a critical, albeit playful, outlook of what is yet to be done.