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To See or Not to See: The Good, the Bad, and the Criminally Overrated in L.A.’s Museums and Galleries | ARTnews
2023-05-23 13:21

Yang Fudong’s photographic triptych The First Intellectual (2000) reads as a trio of large-scale movie posters about a businessman standing in the center of an urban road. Forehead bloodied, he’s poised to throw a brick, but he’s unsure of which direction; his assailant is the dull pain of disillusionment, and he can’t see where it’s coming from. Curated by Nicholas Barlow with Aram Moshayedi, the Hammer’s “Cruel Youth Diary” falls into the criminally underrated category, where work by 16 Chinese artists—including Yang alongside Cao Fei, Weng Fen, and Chen Shaoxiong—from the mid-’90s to early 2000s poignantly captures a period of tumultuous cultural realignment. The rapid onset of capitalism at the turn of the century coincided with mainland China’s eased restrictions on foreign and domestic media, flooding the country with consumerist imagery—both a source of alienation and a new visual language to exploit. Like Imhof, the artists appropriate commercial media, but with a greater clarity of purpose: the transgressive absurdity and seductive nature of these works represent an intellectual counterculture in a crisis of identity. In Beautiful Dog Brows (2002), for example, Cao Fei appears on the cover of a fashion magazine, Ellf, made up like a dog dressed in Burberry. In Weng Fen’s photographs of schoolchildren gazing into the distance, newly built skyscrapers portend the bulldozing, relentless tide of globalization. The mood is also justifiably emo, weighted by the anxiety of irreversible change.

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Related Artists: YANG FUDONG 杨福东 ZHU JIA 朱加 SHI YONG 施勇 SONG TAO 宋涛 XIANG LIQING 向利庆 YANG ZHENZHONG 杨振中 XU ZHEN 徐震 ZHAO BANDI 赵半狄

Related Exhibitions:

Cruel Youth Diary: Chinese Photography and Video from the Haudenschild Collection 02.15, 2023


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