In posters, the propagandistic function of art under Mao is most clearly revealed. Widely distributed and cheaply available, the posters produced during the Cultural Revolution era address (or elide) problems and goals, instruct viewers on everything from army conduct to birth control, and celebrate the revolutionary spirit in the lives of the people and in the person of Chairman Mao. The posters on view offer a sampling of this revolutionary vision from 1969 to 1978, with one final poster from 1985 illustrating the change in the post-Cultural Revolution era. They range from starkly propagandistic to later, more conciliatory images in the post-Mao era. Styles range from socialist realist vigor to an almost folk art simplicity to the increasing lyricism of later works, as evocation of the natural world, so strongly associated with Chinese art prior to the Revolution, begins to creep back into the artists' idiom. The poster in China did not begin with the Revolution, nor were posters the only form of artistic expression. Additional panels discuss art in China under the communist regime. The Institute of East Asian Studies would like to express appreciation to Hok Pui and Sally Yu Leung for the generous loan of posters displayed in this exhibition.
November 19, 2008