The Cultural Revolution was a massive social and political upheaval resulting from a battle for supremacy within the ruling Chinese Communist Party, set in motion by the party’s chairman Mao Zedong. It was also a time of both brutal iconoclasm and radical experimentation in the arts, the effects of which still resonate today.
Forty years after the Cultural Revolution, Art in Turmoil revisits the visual and performing arts of the period – the paintings, propaganda posters, political cartoons, sculpture, folk arts, private sketchbooks, opera, and ballet. Probing deeply, it examines what these vibrant, militant, often gaudy images meant to artists, their patrons, and their audiences at the time, and what they mean now, both in their original forms and as revolutionary icons reworked for a new market-oriented age.
Chapters by scholars of Chinese history and art and by artists whose careers were shaped by the Cultural Revolution decode the rhetoric of China’s turbulent decade. The many illustrations in the book, some familiar and some never seen before, also offer new insights into works that have transcended their times.
This book will be of interest to China scholars and students of cultural politics and art history.
In this national convulsion the arts played a strikingly large role, a process described with great care in Art in Turmoil.
This is a brilliant, thorough study of art created during the disastrous decade in China’s modern history. The recent flood of publications on China’s contemporary art scene make this book on the immediately preceding period necessary reading because of the polar opposite forces that brought the two periods into play.… Essential.
This volume compellingly illustrates that the artistic products of the CR period were anything but ‘artless, sterile, without depth, without truth, and without reality’ (189). Moreover, present-day artistic producers and their works, as well as society at large, continue to be influenced by them.
The level of scholarship throughout is high, with extensive reading in Chinese-language primary and secondary sources combined with personal experience. It is recommended reading for all students of contemporary Chinese culture and society.
The passage of time and passion, as well as the availability of new materials, bring a new focus to work on the Cultural Revolution. Memoirs of participants put a human face on the decade-long movement. The personal experiences and new documents in Art in Turmoil combine with exquisite scholarship to deepen our understanding of the artistic life of Maoist China.
There have been many books on the Cultural Revolution within the field of politics, sociology, and anthropology, but very few largely relevant to the art of the decade available in either Chinese or English. Art in Turmoil will thus be welcomed as playing a pivotal role in constructing a framework for further and wider discussions.
Introduction: Vibrant Images of a Turbulent Decade / Richard King and Jan Walls
Part 1: Artists and the State
1 The Art of the Cultural Revolution / Julia F. Andrews
2 Summoning Confucius: Inside Shi Lu’s Imagination / Shelley Drake Hawks
Part 2: Artists Remember: Two Memoirs
3 Brushes Are Weapons: An Art School and Its Artists / Shengtian Zheng
4 When We Were Young: Up to the Mountains, Down to the Villages / Gu Xiong
Part 3: Meanings Then and Now
5 The Rent Collection Courtyard, Past and Present / Britta Erickson
6 Hu Xian Peasant Painting: From Revolutionary Icon to Market Commodity / Ralph Croizier
Part 4: Beyond the Visual Arts
7 Model Theatrical Works and the Remodelling of the Cultural Revolution / Paul Clark
8 Feminism in the Revolutionary Model Ballets The White-Haired Girl and The Red Detachment of Women / Bai Di
9 Fantasies of Battle: Making the Militant Hero Prominent / Richard King
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