The haudenschildGarage supported Zheng Shengtian's research project which investigated the influence of Mexican art on the development of contemporary Chinese art in the 20th century. Shengtian is the Managing Editor of the Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art the first publication on Chinese contemporary art in English.
A Research Project to Investigate Mexico and China’s Exchange in 20th Century
Mexico, February 2008
Exchange, dialogue and migration between societies have occurred throughout the history of art and continue to impact our society today. Unfortunately, very few scholars have investigated the development of collective visual culture, especially those occurring outside the European-American cultural arena. This research project is designed to uncover the influence of Mexican art on the development of contemporary Chinese art in 20th century. The project, consisting of research trips to both China and Mexico seeks to further encourage this artistic dialogue through meetings and artistic collaboration. It is our hope the result of this project will be presented in a documentary film and an art exhibition.
Documented contact between Mexico and China can be found as early as 1934, when Mexican artist, Miguel Covarrubias visited Shanghai and soon became the mentor of a group of young Chinese artists. A major exchange took place in 1950s after China’s communist revolution. Mexican artists Xavier Guerrero, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Ignacio Aguirre and Arturo García Bustos, among others, visited China successively. In March and July 1956, two exhibitions of Mexican painting and prints came to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. As China was completely closed to the West at that time, the art work in the exhibition brought new styles and new ideas and influenced a great number of Chinese artists.
Yao Zhonghua, painter and the head of Yunnan Painting Institute, recalled how “the large murals by Diego Rivera that recruited the Indian tradition and Western modernism excited us and refreshed our eyes. It was in congruence with our artistic pursuit… we were having feverish dreams about making murals.” And make murals they did. Commissioned by the Beijing Airport in 1979, a group of Chinese artists completed a dozen large scale murals pushing the boundaries of artistic expression. It was the first art movement after ending of the Cultural Revolution and marked the beginning of a new era for contemporary Chinese art.
The delegation is led by Zheng Shengtian - Independent Canadian curator and managing editor of Yishu Journal(www.yishujournal.com). He is joined by Chinese artists Yao Zhonghua and Sun Jingbo– Muralist and Professor of Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, Joy Bloser, research assistant and interpreter, and Gu Yu, videographer.
With cooperation from the Cultural Ministry in Mexico and many Mexican scholars, an important materials exchange has already begun. Our research team will continue to collect printed material and primary resources concerning the Chinese-Mexican artistic exchange, building our bibliography and text collection. The Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros invited research assistant, Joy Bloser, to return to Mexico City in order to continue searching for materials about Siqueiros visit to China in the 1950’s.
Documentary filmmaker, Gu Yu, is presently editing taped interviews from both Mexico and China to create a trailer of our project and is continuing to develop the documentary proposal.
Connections made in Mexico have also helped solidify plans for a major traveling art exhibition presenting our research and findings to the international public in a visual forum.