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China: Fifty Years Inside the People's Republic
April 12 through June 18, 2000
The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is proud to present China: Fifty Years Inside the People's Republic, which will open on April 12 and run through June 18, 2000. This major exhibition explores half a century of social and political upheaval in China through the eyes of twenty-five of the most important Chinese and Western photographers of our time. Co-sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, this unprecedented collection of more than 200 images in both color and black-and-white presents a memorable exploration of an extraordinary place and time.
Although there is a history of exchange with China through photography dating back to the 1860s, for most Westerners the country and its 5000-year cultural legacy remain largely unknown. This exhibition is the first to present both Chinese and Western views of an historic period on a grand scale, and offers a profound insight into modern China. The UC Berkeley Art Museum is the only West Coast venue for this exhibition, which has been organized by the Aperture Foundation, and the Asia Society, New York.
"I am delighted that the UC Berkeley Art Museum is able to present such a significant exhibition," says Kevin E. Consey, Director. "It would be difficult to overstate the importance and the diversity of this remarkable collection, and the rich experience it promises our audiences. The co-presentation of this exhibition with the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism is in keeping with the campus's ongoing interest in Chinese history and society, and the museum's own important collections of Chinese art."
"With China reinventing itself with such vigor and with such potential for both success and failure, this exhibition has a particular relevance to us here at the Graduate School of Journalism where we, too, are trying to foresee its future," says Orville Schell, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism and noted authority on contemporary China. In addition to the museum's presentation, a selection of works from the exhibition will also be on display in North Gate Hall, home of the Graduate School of Journalism on the UC Berkeley campus.
China: Fifty Years Inside the People's Republic presents the work of photographers who have made a lasting commitment to working in China. Their photographs not only reveal the essence of that vast and complex land, but also suggest a passionate attachment to the county and its people. Included in the exhibition are images by Chinese photographer Wu Yinxian, whose works capture both the fervor of the Cultural Revolution and the birth of the new Republic. Through images by the photojournalists Robert Capa and Owen Lattimore in the years leading up to 1949, and by Li Zheng Sheng during the Cultural revolution two decades later, the vitality, urgency, and turmoil of the times are made readily apparent.
China's many regions, cultures, and people are revealed in the luminous color photographs of Hiroji Kubota, in which motifs from the country's past converge with intimate views of contemporary urban and rural customs. Reagan Louie, a San Francisco-based photographer, has captured the extraordinary mix of traditional life and modernity while exploring the cities and hamlets of his parents' homeland, creating color images of cinematic immediacy.
Among the younger Chinese artists featured in the exhibition—many of whose work has never before been exhibited in the West—are Xiao-Ming Li, Zhang Hai-er, and Wang Jinsong. In different ways these artists explore the search for personal expression though religion, popular culture—even in the collection of simple household possessions. Modernization and urbanism are themes that attract both Chinese and Western photographers. Among them, Brian Palmer has explored the polarizing effects of change on the older and younger generations today. Also included are photographs by Liu Heung Shing, Eve Arnold, Wu Jialin, Antonin Kratochvil, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Mark Leong, Xing Danwen, Zhuang Hui, Stuart Franklin, and Han Lei, among others. Seen together, this unprecedented collection presents a memorable exploration of an extraordinary place and time, offering audiences an experience as broad and diverse as the country and its society.
The Museum will present a series of programs in conjunction with the exhibition China: Fifty Years Inside the People's Republic. On Friday, April 14, at 7 pm, Orville Schell, Dean of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and noted China authority, will present the lecture "The Development of Culture in Post Mao China" in the Museum Theater. Schell, a long-time contributor to The New Yorker as well as other major publications, has written nine books on China—most recently Mandate of Heaven (1995)—in addition to serving as a television commentator for ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as correspondent and consultant for many PBS documentaries. In his lecture Schell will offer important historical and cultural context for the photographs taken during China's years of extraordinarily dramatic change.
The Museum will also host two panel discussions, in which photographers from China and the US will present their work and discuss their experience photographing in China, the meaning of photography in China, and other related issues. The first panel discussion, on Sunday, April 16, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm in the Museum Theater, will feature photographers Reagan Louie (San Francisco), Brian Palmer (New York), and Liu Heung Shing (Beijing), with moderator Peggy Roalf, organizer of the exhibition for the Aperture Foundation. The second panel, also in the Museum Theater, will take place on Sunday, May 7, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm, and will include photographers Jeffrey Aaronson (Aspen) and Xing Danwen (Beijing) with moderator Robert Templer, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
In conjunction with the museum's exhibition China: 50 Years Inside the People's Republic, the Pacific Film Archive presents a series exploring how Chinese and Western film directors have observed these years of change. Included are two wonderfully deadpan comedies of manners by Ning Ying; the quietly observational documentaries in A Taste of China and the remarkable study of Tiananmen Square, Gate of Heavenly Peace; and, in the San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA, the gritty family drama Seventeen Years. In our Monday evening Melodrama, West and East series are three pre-Revolutionary Chinese melodramas including the 1947 Spring River Flows East, a landmark of left-wing cinema in the forties. For information call PFA at 510-642-1412.
Also on view
In its latest exhibition for the MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art, the UC Berkeley Art Museum presents Anne Chu/MATRIX 184 Untitled, opening on April 16 and run through June 4, 2000. Anne Chu appropriates ancient T'ang dynasty ceramic funerary figures to create sculptures that fuse traditional Chinese artistry with modern techniques and concepts. Chu's hand-painted figures of court ladies, warriors and goddesses echo the expressions, gestures, and garments of their sources, but are carved from wood using chainsaws and drills. While the sculptures evoke icons, they contain subtle personalizations and distortions that suggest remoteness and difference from their ancient sources. Chu is a New York-based artist, and received her MFA from Columbia University, New York, in 1985.