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Exhibition of Leading Contemporary Chinese Women Artists opens on Friday, September 27
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 NEWS - Open House

Opening on Friday, September 27, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art presents Breakthrough: Work by Contemporary Chinese Women Artists showcasing the artwork of eight pioneering Chinese women artists who, collectively, have played a major role in shaping the current landscape of contemporary Chinese art.

The public is invited to the opening weekend events.

September 27, 2013 | 4:30 p.m | Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center
Lecture, “Women Artists in 20th Century China: A Prehistory of the Contemporary,” by Julia F. Andrews, Professor of Art History at The Ohio State University, is a leading scholar of Chinese art. In 1979, she became the first American art historian to conduct research in China after formal establishment of US-China relations. 

September 27, 2013 | 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Open House at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art

September 28, 2013 | 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. | Beam Classroom, Visual Arts Center
Symposium: “Female Embodiment of the Visual World: Women’s Art in Contemporary China.”

Breakthrough: Work by Contemporary Chinese Women Artists comprises over twenty-five works, including painting, sculpture, photography, and video, all created within the past decade. Spanning multiple generations of artists, ranging from those who came of age during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s to those who grew up amid China’s massive infrastructural reforms and global emergence during the 1990s, the artists featured in Breakthrough are Cai Jin, Cao Fei, Chen Qiulin, Hung Liu, Lin Tianmiao, Peng Wei, Xing Danwen and Yin Xiuzhen. Organized by Sarah Montross, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the BCMA, in collaboration with Shu-chin Tsui, Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Film Studies, and Peggy Wang, Assistant Professor of Art History and Asian Studies, the exhibition will be on view at Bowdoin from September 27 – December 22. Breakthrough is organized in connection with an international symposium on September 28, 2013, which will provide the intellectual discourse around the burgeoning study of art by contemporary Chinese women.

Breakthrough and the related symposium will bring together, in cross-cultural dialogue, leading voices in contemporary Chinese art,” said Anne Collins Goodyear, Co-Director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. “We are thrilled to be collaborating with our colleagues across Bowdoin College departments to offer our museum audiences and the College community an unparalleled opportunity to engage with these incredible works of art,” continued Frank Goodyear, Co-Director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. “The exhibition and symposium will support one another and will foster deep engagement with the artworks and inspire further the study of art made by women in China today.”

The artists featured in Breakthrough work across a wide range of media, as reflected in Peng Wei’s use of traditional ink wash, Cai Jin’s visceral abstract painting, and Cao Fei’s interventions in the online realm of Second Life. To focus the exhibition, much of the work selected by curator Sarah Montross features the human form, often the artists themselves or other female bodies. Notable examples include Hung Liu’s oil paintings Relic 8 (2004) and The Path (2010-2011), which incorporate figures from historical photographs that appear as ghostly specters; a self-titled photographic series by Yin Xiuzhen, in which the artist has inserted a series of self-portraits into the footprint of hand-made shoes; and Lin Tianmiao’s mixed media works that evoke the feminine through the use of sewing materials, such as silk and cotton threads, felt, and synthetic hairs.

“Throughout the exhibition, the figural presence provides a central metaphor for the interplay between the individual and collective experiences in contemporary Chinese culture and the rising visibility and self-awareness among Chinese women artists,” said Dr. Montross.“By summoning the figural presence in their art, these artists may also be registering, perhaps inadvertently, a growing self-awareness of their pioneering impact on the contemporary arts scene, both within China and international orbits.”

To support original interpretations and new scholarship for the work on view,Breakthrough is planned with a major international symposium on September 28, 2013, hosted by Dr. Tsui, entitled “Female Embodiment of the Visual World: Women’s Art in Contemporary China.” Panelists at the symposium include prominent art critics from China, including Jia Fangzhou and Tao Yongbai, who wrote some of the first critical texts on women’s art in China. Dr. Julia F. Andrews, noted specialist on modern and contemporary Chinese art and the first American art historian to conduct dissertation research in China, will be delivering a keynote lecture. Other invited panelists will be speaking on several of the artists whose work is on view in Breakthrough, including Lin Tianmiao, Yin Xiuzhen and Hung Liu. In addition to the symposium, artist Hung Liu will be giving a lecture on November 7, 2013 and while on campus, she will also engage with other College departments, including Asian Studies and Women’s Studies.

Breakthrough builds on the museum’s ongoing commitment to exhibiting the art of China and comes at a time of an increasing focus and awareness of Asian studies at Bowdoin College. In 2011, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art was the only other venue for Along the Yangzi River: Regional Culture of the Bronze Age from Hunan, an exhibition organized by The China Institute and featuring singular objects that highlighted the artistry and cultural beliefs of bronze-age China. The show, which attracted over 28,000 visitors, was incorporated into the curriculum across campus, involving students in diverse departments such as Asian Studies, Chinese Language and Art History.

About the Artists 

NB: The artists’ names are written in two forms of romanization of the Chinese language, pinyin and Wade-Giles (in parentheses), followed by Chinese characters. Their surnames, which are often placed first by Chinese convention, are rendered in capitals.

CAI Jin (Tsai Chin) 蔡锦 was born in Tunxi, Anhui Province, in 1965. She graduated from the Fine Arts Department of Anhui Normal University, Wuhu, in 1986 and earned a degree in Oil Painting in 1991 at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. She currently teaches at the Tianjin Fine Arts Institute, Tianjin. Cai is best known for her striking, nearly abstract paintings of banana leaves that merge themes of fertility and decay. Cai has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions including a 2012 retrospective at the National Art Museum of Art, Beijing, and the seminal group show Die Hälfte des Himmels/Half of the Sky: Contemporary Chinese Women Artists, Frauen Museum, Bonn, Germany (1998).

CAO Fei (Tsao Fei) 曹斐 was born in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, in 1978 and is based in Beijing. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts where she studied decoration and design, and there made her first films. Cao creates elaborate multimedia installations, films, and videos in which she contrasts themes of fantasy and escapism in popular youth culture against the workaday realities of contemporary life. She has exhibited at numerous biennials and premier museums, including the China pavilion at the Venice Bienniale in 2007. Her project RMB CITY has been exhibited in Deutsche Guggenheim (2010), Shiseido Gallery, Tokyo (2009), Serpentine Gallery, London (2008) and the Yokohama Triennale (2008). In 2010 she was a finalist for the Hugo Boss Prize.

CHEN Qiulin (Chen Ch’iu-lin) 陈秋林 was born in 1975 and grew up in Wanzhou, a city in the Sichuan province now partially underwater due to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. She graduated from the Printmaking Department at the Sichuan Academy of Art and now works and lives in Chengdu and Beijing. Chen’s multimedia work centers around themes of urbanization in China, both its geological impact on the landscape and influence over humankind. Recent exhibitions include Chen Qiulin, Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles (2009) and Displacement: The Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese Art, David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago (2008).

Hung LIU (Hung Liu) 劉虹 was born in Changchun, Jilin Province, in 1948, a year before the People’s Republic of China was established. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Art and Art Education from the Beijing Teachers College and a Master’s degree in Mural Painting from the Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing. She immigrated to the United States in 1984 and received a Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of California in San Diego in 1986. She is now a Professor of Art at Mills College and lives and works in Oakland, California. Recent retrospectives of her work include Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu, Oakland Museum of Art (2013) and Hung Liu: Memorial Grounds 1988-2006, Savannah College of Art and Design (2008).

LIN Tianmiao (Lin T’ien-miao) 林天苗 was born in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province in 1961 and lives and works in Beijing. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from the Fine Art Department at Capital Normal University in Beijing in 1984. Lin moved to New York in 1987 and studied at the Art Students League while working as a textile designer, before returning to Beijing in 1994. Lin is known for multimedia work in which she winds silk or cotton threads around everyday objects and images, transforming their appearance and function. Lin has exhibited in numerous domestic and international exhibitions, including Bound/Unbound: Lin Tianmiao, Asia Society, New York (2012), The Same, Beijing Center for the Arts, Beijing (2007), and Global Feminisms, Brooklyn Museum (2007).

PENG Wei (Peng Wei) 彭薇 was born in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in 1974 and lives and works in Beijing. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art (1997) and Master’s degree in Aesthetics (2000) from Nankai University, Tianjin, China. She is among a younger generation of Chinese contemporary artists who use traditional ink painting as their favored medium. Recent exhibitions include Taking off the Shell—Works by Peng Wei 2002-2011, He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, China (2011), Attitudes: Female Art in China, European Centre for Contemporary Art, Brussels, Belgium (2009), and INK not INK: A Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, Shenzhen Art Museum, Guangdong, Today Art Museum, Beijing, and Drexel University, Pennsylvania (2008).

XING Danwen (Hsing Tan-wen) 邢丹文 was born in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, in 1967 and lives and works in Beijing. Xing earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in 1992 from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, and a MFA in Photography at the School of Visual Arts, New York, in 2000. Xing is best known for her playful yet sensitive portrayal of urban life shown in her Urban Fictions series of large-scale photographs of architectural maquettes that straddle the line between reality and fantasy. Recent exhibitions of her work include Chinese Modernism and U.S. Vernacular—Xing Danwen & Jim Vecchi, Architecture Center Houston Foundation (2010) and Seeing Utopia, Past and Future—Wang Di and Xing Danwen, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University (2010).

YIN Xiuzhen (Yin Hsiu-chen) 尹秀珍 was born in 1963 in Beijing and now lives and works there. She graduated from Capital Normal University’s Fine Arts Department in 1989 with a degree in painting. Yin is known for her creative manipulations of second-hand items, especially clothing, to explore topics of nostalgia, personal memory, rapid globalization and homogenization. Yin has exhibited in major exhibitions domestically and internationally since the 1990s, including Die Hälfte des Himmels/Half of the Sky: Contemporary Chinese Women Artists, Frauen Museum, Bonn, Germany (1998), Global Feminisms, Brooklyn Museum (2007), Projects 92: Yin Xiuzhen, Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Yin Xiuzhen, Groninger Museum, Groningen, Netherlands (2012).