Saturday, May 15, 2010

City Passer-By, Zhong Biao

Coca-Cola, Wang Guangyi

Wang Guangyi was one of the most famed political pop artists in China who produced a series of artworks titled the 'Great Criticism' series that earned him fame. it was done with political pop style and anatomic structuralism to record his thought about the effect of the influx of large quantities of western commodities has on CHinese Culture. This influx is interpreted as an invasion of Western culture. i.e. this series of works combines ideology (communism) with advertisement (capatilism) to criticize the apparent truths both seem to tout.

Zhong Biao has captured the pulse of China’s social reform through visual symbols familiar in contemporary Chinese culture. In his own quiet way, Zhong creates visualizations through paradoxical images, combining scenes from different eras or contrasting colors in the same image. Born in 1968 in Chongquing, Sichuan province of China, Zhong earned a degree from what is now known as the China Academy of Fine Arts. He has used visuals of sculpture and ceramics representing China’s past glories, the Cultural Revolution and modern-life cultural shift symbols including McDonald’s or skyscrapers to explore the idea of contemporary popular culture.

Add info: As a sensitive artist, Zhong Biao has captured the pulse of China's social reforms through the visual symbols Chinese people are familiar with. He takes the visual experiences of an era as the image source of his works, including sculpture and china representing China's past glories, the labor models of the Cultural Revolution, and such symbols of modern life as McDonalds and Boeing aircrafts. Of course, most symbols are skyscrapers and western-style buildings in old China. What attracts artists is the different meanings of these images, because in the language of ordinary Chinese people, what used to be synonymous with corrupt capitalist society or colonization is now the symbol of modernity. In these new circumstances, images from different eras are frequently taken out of their original context and used repeatedly. And in this process they are continuously endowed with new cultural meanings. Zhong Biao's work is similar to the "knowledge archeology" described by Facult Michael. In "visual archeology" similar to "knowledge archeology," he cuts a section from the visual symbols people are familiar with, then takes out those fragmented symbols from the cultural deposits of different times, and last arranges and combines them in a unique way. What he wants is not to show the meaning of symbols themselves, but to reveal the changing meanings of the images through setting up peculiar scenes.

In terms of the similarities in both works, we can see the use of juxposition of images. For Wang, he juxtaposed commercialized brands such as Coca-Cola with Heroic figures from the cultural revolution. For Zhou, he created a a juxposition of colour where he contrasted grey tone imgaes with colourful ones and space where he depicted an interior of a room opening up into an open space of what seems to be a westernized village (people walking around and old looking western buildings) Nonetheless, as an artist, Zhong Biao adheres to "visualization" to accomplish his "archeological work." Instead of juxtaposing concepts, he expresses himself through paradoxical scenes. While his early works usually juxtapose cultural images from different times, his later works are characterized by more transformation. He sets color dimensionality against time direction. The artist's imagination adds color to aged images, yet the images close our daily life are deprived of any color and context. Living people lose color, yet the dresses and accessories they wear, which are the symbols of the era, stay on. With the fading away of colors, the limit between reality and memory is completely destroyed and illusion begins. This illusion, rather than being founded on pure biological sensation as in the case of surrealism, is based on cultural accumulation and memory. If surrealist style is but a reflection of the identity crisis experienced by people during the earlier rapid industrialization, then Zhong Biao's works appear to have initiated a "new surrealist style," which embodies an individual's doubt about his knowledge. Hence, differing from Wang who employs a more direct visual juxtaposition of bold striking images, Zhou plays up with the colours and brings in surrealism and exploring the cultural crisis subtly and deeper.

Zhong Biao's unique work style means that his cultural attitude is entirely different from that of Wang's. Wang was eager to put across was his own attitude, criticizing either ideology or commercial culture. Zhong Biao seems to keep a distance from this sort of criticism. In his works we find the calmness unique to intellectuals. What he considers is not how to criticize, but the source of evidence for our criticism and how it's meaning undergoes changes. Behind Zhong Biao's approach to China's pop culture and mass culture, we find a new cultural attitude. He is unlike Wang who deals with pop culture, mixing his works with real pop culture under the pretext of concept. For Wang, he appropiated Warholian Pop Art into Political Pop art, a style of Pop Art with icons from propaganda posters of Chinese Cultural Revelution done in Warholian style of simplifying images into blocks of flat colours. As such, his works were very striking and saturated, bringing forth the irony very strongly and directly in a somewhat abstract pop style, critizing the conflicting values of communism and capatilism in China. On the other hand, in Zhong Biao's works, we can see that through the creation of illusions and the incompleteness of images he gives up not only the antagonistic relations between art and mass culture but also the attempt to control mass culture. Futhermore, we can see that he achieves this through realistic approach and his visualization (use of colour tones). Through 'visualization' Zhong Biao has staked out his own claim within the domain of mass culture.

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