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Powerful Exhibit Explores the Role of Tradition in Contemporary Chinese Art

Installation view of ‘Summoning Memories: Art Beyond Chinese Traditions,’

Photo: Alex Barber

The Asia Society Texas has put together a fascinating exhibition that highlights the works of 32 well-known and emerging Chinese artists working today. Summoning Memories: Art Beyond Chinese Traditions is a look at how artists of Chinese descent are able to honor their cultural traditions while still pushing creative boundaries. Featuring painting, sculpture, and photography, the exhibit demonstrates a powerful intergenerational dialogue tied to memory and respect.

In many instances, the artists experiment with traditional techniques and mediums used in China, including ink painting and calligraphy. In the case of Xu Bing's well-known handscroll, How to Do Square Word Calligraphy, English words are rearranged and deconstructed to appear as Chinese characters.

Yun-fei Ji tackles traditional Chinese landscape painting with his handscroll Three Gorges Dam Migration. But in this work, where the creation of a dam has dire consequences in the forms of migration and environmental destruction, the issues are wholly modern.

Environmental issues, problems related to urbanization, and China's rapid modernization are just some of the contemporary social issues tackled by the talented group. Collectively they show the power of summoning the past to forge a new path into the future.

Summoning Memories: Art Beyond Chinese Traditions is on view until July 2, 2023, at Asia Society Texas in Houston.

Asia Society Texas is showcasing the talents of 32 artists of Chinese descent.

Installation view of ‘Summoning Memories: Art Beyond Chinese Traditions,’

Photo: Alex Barber

Yun-Fei Ji Ink Painting

Yun-Fei Ji, ‘The Three Gorges Dam Migration’ (detail), 2008, Ink and watercolor on xuan paper mounted on silk, Courtesy the artist and James Cohan Gallery

Contemporary Chinese sculpture by Zhang Dali

Zhang Dali, ‘100 Chinese’ (detail), 2001, Synthetic resin, Courtesy of the artist and Eli Klein Gallery.

Detail of steel sculpture by Zheng Lu

Zheng Lu, ‘Water in Dripping – You’ (detail), 2016, Stainless steel, Courtesy of the artist and Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

Installation view of ‘Summoning Memories: Art Beyond Chinese Traditions,’

Photo: Alex Barber

Summoning Memories: Art Beyond Chinese Traditions shows how these artists experiment with traditional materials.

Installation view of ‘Summoning Memories: Art Beyond Chinese Traditions,’

Photo: Alex Barber

Contemporary Chinese ink painting by Sun Xun

Sun Xun, ‘The Time Vivarium-11,’ 2014, Acrylic and ink on paper mounted to aluminum, Pizzuti Collection

Contemporary Chinese ink painting by Sun Xun

Sun Xun, ‘The Time Vivarium-16,’ 2014, Acrylic and ink on paper mounted to aluminum, Pizzuti Collection

And in doing so, they honor the past while blazing a new trail toward the future.

Installation view of ‘Summoning Memories: Art Beyond Chinese Traditions,’

Photo: Alex Barber

Asia Society Texas Contemporary Chinese Art Exhibition

Fu Xiaotong, ‘719,560 Pinpricks’ (detail), 2019, Handmade xuan paper, Courtesy of the artist and Chambers Fine Art.

Contemporary Landscape Art by Yang Yongliang

Yang Yongliang, ‘Imagined Landscape, Rabbit,’ 2022, Giclee print on fine art paper, Courtesy the artist

Summoning Memories: Art Beyond Chinese Traditions at Asia Society Texas

Zhang Jian-Jun, ‘Rubbing Planet in Shui-mo Space,’ 2022, Chinese ink, oil paint, acrylic, rice paper on canvas, Courtesy the artist

Asia Society: Website | Instagram | Facebook

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Asia Society.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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