Exhibition Examines Chinese Art from New Perspective

"On the Edge: Contemporary Chinese Artists Encounter the West"

January 26–May 1, 2005

Stanford, CA, April 20, 2004—An exhibition scheduled to open at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University on January 26, 2005 will explore recent Chinese art from a perspective never before presented in the West. On the Edge: Contemporary Chinese Artists Encounter the West aims to replace old assumptions concerning China's contemporary art with a fresh appreciation of its form and substance and of its interconnectedness with the international art world.

"China's avant-garde artists are doubly marginal. They are marginalized in their own country, and China's art is considered marginal by the international art community," explained Britta Erickson, independent scholar and guest curator of the exhibition, who is one of the leading Western authorities on Chinese contemporary art. "This has given many Chinese artists, whether living in China or the West, a heightened appreciation of their tenuous situation. The result is the creation of a large body of bold experimental works dissecting the artist’s position in the art world and China's position in the world."

Art and politics are inseparable. Chinese artists now in their forties learned this during their adolescence, when Mao's theories on art shaped the visual landscape. Younger Chinese artists have become obsessed with a blend of art and politics—cultural politics—focusing on the positioning of Chinese art within the global art scene. Artist Zhou Tiehai stated, "The relations in the art world are the same as the relations between states in the post Cold War era. Just as wealthy nations have controlled trade barriers, tariffs, and other international trade mechanisms to promote their own interests, Western curators and critics have controlled the standards for what is deemed 'world class' art." Some of China's best artists have reacted to this by producing bitingly humorous pieces commenting on the situation. On the Edge includes the most important of these works. An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

Artists represented in the exhibition include Qiu Zhijie, Sui Jianguo, Wang Du, Xing Danwen, Xu Bing, Yan Lei, Yin Xiuzhen, Zhang Huan, and Zhou Tiehai, with works in a full range of materials, including gouache, oil, airbrush, resin, photography, installation, and video. "The West," an interactive CD-ROM by Beijing-based artist Qiu Zhijie, allows exhibition visitors to explore Chinese ideas of the West, ranging from ridiculous or shocking popular misconceptions, to historical views. MacArthur award winner Xu Bing has created a classroom—included in the exhibition—where visitors can learn to write Square Word Calligraphy, a method of writing English words as square graphs resembling Chinese characters.

The Cantor Arts Center is open Wednesday - Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Thursday until 8 p.m. Admission is free. Docents provide free tours of the exhibition throughout its run at Stanford on Thursdays at 12:15 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. No reservation is needed. The Center is located on the Stanford campus off Palm Drive, at Lomita Drive and Museum Way. Parking is free after 4 p.m. and all day on weekends. Weekday pay parking is available in front of the Center and in the parking garage nearby. For information, call 650-723-4177.