Most people are aware that China's long slumber apart from the rest of the world is quite over. For the most part, the country has opened itself up to new ideas, free-market enterprises and modernization. And when it comes to art, China is the next frontier: Xu Bing, Zhang Xiaogang and Cai Guo-Qiang, to name a few, have shown in top institutions like the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and their works have been auctioned for millions through houses like Sotheby's.
Now the next generation is following suit. Young artists from China's Central Academy of Fine Arts recently visited Colorado State University-Pueblo's Fine Art Gallery to construct the installation art that accompanies various other pieces at the show, New Face, New Art — Chinese Emerging Contemporary Artists, which opened July 30.
The artwork on display hails from "some of the newest, brightest young artists coming out of China," says professor Kenny Schneider, director of CSU-Pueblo's gallery. They include Sun Hao, Wu Quiyan, Yang Yu and Feng Wei.
Since 2011, the Central Academy has emphasized developing new artists in the program Art Nova 100. Members of Art Nova accepted juried submissions from artists born after 1975 from across the nation, and then selected 100 of them to represent China in a year-long national and international tour.
Thirteen of those artists were then chosen to have their work shown in the United States, which is hosting Art Nova 100 for the first time. CSU-Pueblo is one of the chosen stops due to its partnership with alumnus Nichole Hongchang, a University of Colorado-Denver professor who acted as translator and coordinator for the artists and their works.
Schneider and Hongchang photographed and measured the Pueblo space from every angle imaginable. The layout of the gallery was taken into consideration in order to customize the show to the space.
"We sent all of that to China, and the artists designed [the show] from those," Schneider says. "The artists flew over to help assemble their installations, but one of them came with nothing. She collected all of her materials on-site to fit the conception she had [of the space]."
Of the roughly 30 works at the show, there are two multiple-piece installations and three videos, plus ink drawings, paintings and new, non-traditional media such as synthetics, and polymers. The works cover a broad spectrum, ranging from fully representational to non-objective art.
"The ideas generated — the conceptualizations — are key" to understanding the new art coming out of China, says Schneider. "It seems to me that Chinese art depends more upon community, upon the flow of ideas between artist and the viewer. There is reverence for the ancient masters, the Grandfathers. They are revered, but the new artists are passionate, and they are there."
Which means ... what, exactly? Well, that's what each artist is hoping you'll ask. Each piece is a possibility for a conversation with the artist. According to Schneider, "The artists are saying, 'Don't be afraid of us, just look at our art.'"