Black Painting: Chinese Artists Persecuted During the Cultural Revolution

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    Ya Ming (born 1924). 'Yangzi River,' China, dated 1979. Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper. Gift of Shang H. and Nell Ho, 1991. (6603.1)

May 23, 2013 - September 15, 2013
Honolulu Museum of Art

Exhibition Overview

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 was one of the most traumatic periods in modern Chinese history, and often is described as the “ten lost years.” The Cultural Revolution had a staggering effect on the arts. Senior artists and teachers were imprisoned in “ox-pens” after being publicly beaten with heavy leather belts and buckles by their students, and a series of  “Black Painting Exhibitions” criticizing “counter-revolutionary” styles were held.

Artists such as Pan Tianshou, his student Li Keran, and Wu Zuoren were prominent targets of the Red Guard, and subject to severe persecution and humiliation. At the same time, while they were caught up in the political struggles that marked the period, the Black Painting Exhibitions ironically presented a rare opportunity for younger artists to be influenced (albeit surreptitiously) by their aesthetic ideas. Even though the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution lingered for several years, they have since become recognized as among the leading figures in the development of contemporary Chinese ink painting.

In the Maurice J. Sullivan Family Gallery of Chinese Art.