chinese contemporary art

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Fashion Disconnect - Normal Life

Chinese Contemporary Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of Zhao Bo’s solo exhibition Fashion Disconnect - Normal Life. The artist has prepared fifteen new paintings that will be on display 30 August – 15 October 2008 at Chinese Contemporary’s Beijing gallery in Factory 798. The opening will be 30 August 2008 at 3 pm and the artist will be present. A catalogue has been produced in conjunction with this exhibition.

A graduate of the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts and a part of the “New Realists”, Zhao Bo demonstrates extraordinary talent in his interpretation of traditional realism within a contemporary stage, namely that of the modern Chinese city. Unlike the political motivations of earlier avant-garde artists, New Realists came to age in an era of relative political stability, when one of the most pressing dilemmas is the forced reconciliation of the past and the neon-lit future. Awash in bold colors and chaotic iconography, the artist’s canvases serve as portals into the fragmentation that consumerism has wrought upon China’s once communal experience. Born in the 1970s, Zhao Bo grew up in a country of immense transition – bridging the divide of West versus East, Mao jackets versus Gucci, hutongs versus skyscrapers. It is this tension between the societal juxtapositions of life under the collectivism of Mao’s rule and that of post-1979 Deng Xiaoping Reforms that lends poignancy to his works.

Having recently moved from Chongqing, the most populous city in China overflowing with more than thirty million residents, to Beijing, the country’s international capital, Zhao Bo has witnessed firsthand the advent of the name brand culture and its insidious infiltration of the urban landscape. The artist depicts his nation nearly choking in the suffocating grasp of fast food restaurants, corporate mascots, soda brands, and so on. Highlighting his concern with the frantic and multi-layered development of the contemporary Chinese city, the artist positions figures within an incongruous space. Zhao Bo hints at the impossibility of such an excessively cluttered cityscape by excluding solid ground. Instead, it is the compilation of the familiar products of our time – Adidas stores, Pepsi billboards, Volkswagon Beetles – that serve as a reference point for reality.

Though the logos of the international corporate giants strewn across the canvases - McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Coca Cola, Mickey Mouse - are instantaneously accessible to the viewer, the figures embedded within their framework remain aloof. Their deviant facial expressions suggest a considerable inside joke acknowledged by those who have saturated themselves in this garish explosion of consumption. This is emphasized by the realization that not a single figure meets the audience’s gaze, rather their bulging eyes and emotionally void pupils are skewed at acute angles, either engaging each other or focused on a distant point far from the restrictive boundaries of the canvas.

In addition to large-scale paintings, Zhao Bo has also created smaller scale vignettes, placing a large, bold Western brand adjacent to something typically Chinese such as a lantern or red star. Within these paintings, Zhao Bo takes care to incorporate emblems of his country to serve as ballast against the kitsch logos that have become commonplace to most Chinese. As in all of his paintings, the artist seems to be asking, what is it about the consumerism, the greed, the insatiable ingestion of tangible ‘prosperity’ that has catalyzed the preoccupation with Western products and how long before this supercedes the semblance of a unified Chinese traditional culture? The future may be unclear, but Zhao Bo has captured the vitality, frenzy and contradictions of China’s 21st century globalization.

Zhao Bo's works have been shown extensively in China and abroad. They are in many prestigious collections, such as the Kent and Vicki Logan Collection in Colorado, the Chaney Family Collection in Texas and the Denver Art Museum. His paintings have been included in exhibitions at the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai and the He Xiangning Art Museum in Shenzhen.