Mao in Reverse

With the onslaught of global capitalism hitting mainland China and creating over 100 billionaires seemingly overnight, it's almost easy to forget Mao's terrible regime not so long ago. In retrospect, his stint as dictator (27 yrs), was remarkably short in world history terms. But his impact was huge in human sacrifice terms.

Zhang, Hongtu is one of those artists who lived through the Cultural Revolution and decided that New York was a better fit for his free-thinking ways. From that vantage point, he began to make art that represented both worlds simulaneously. He writes:

"If you stare at a red shape for a long time, when you turn away, your retina will hold the image but you will see a green version of the same shape. In the same way, when I lived in China, I saw the positive image of Mao so many times that my mind now holds a negative image of Mao. In my art I am transferring this psychological feeling to a physical object."

This emphasis on green gives his "ancient" tongue-in-cheek bronze McDonald's containers a whole new meaning. This was shown at the Princeton museum (along with truly ancient chinese works).

"I believe in the power of the image, but I don't believe in the authority of the image."

"Sometimes the hole in my work might remind you of the Nothingness of Taoism or the negative space of traditional Chinese ink painting, but the visual inspiration of my work comes directly from a bagel."

I've been amazed by his work and ongoing explorations of bicultural concerns. If you're interested, check out his website at MoMao.com. There's also a PBS special about him that aired last summer.


  1. William Wren said...
    that is very true
    EmilyPie said...
    found you through "blogs of note" on my blogger dashboard.

    I lived and taught in china for a year... and have now returned home with a great love for the country, it's people, and even it's history. I taught at a technical school, so minus a few awesome robots that were produced.. there wasn't much art to be found ;)

    but I enjoyed this post ... and will check this out more.. thanks.
    Ryan said...
    That is awesome, i have spent a little time out of the country and it will always be close to my heart.
    sarah said...
    congrats on making blogs of note. happened to see you there and this is incredibly rare, but i clicked, and i think i'm infatuated with you.

    yes, back on mao, have you read wild swans, by jung chang?

    the woman was exiled from china, which is her homeland, by the way, and it tells the story of herself and two generations before her being subject to the communist rule and the kuomintang before that. it's an eye opener, really.

    or mao, the unknown story. another piece worthy of being called expose material.

    they're both really good reads, only that they're super wordy. consider checking them out?
    David/ Niña said...
    You have such an amazing blog. I love art and your blog is the perfect site to feed my soul with the wonder of art.

    William Wren said...
    mao was 70 per cent good for china and 30 per cent bad
    Michelle O'Neil said...
    Great post.

    "I believe in the power of the image, but I don't believe in the authority of the image."

    Love this.
    soundboy said...
    Nice article, and congrats on making blogs of note. 'tis how I ended up here, I think I might stay a while.
    ham said...
    "We think too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view."
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