Gao Brothers' Execution of Christ: visual lexicon transcending culture, time, and place
Leung, Christina S.Y. (Christina Soon-Ying), 1980-
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After the death of Chairman Mao Zedong in 1979, China began a national transformation from a once self-imposed isolated culture to one that hoped to be economically and culturally engaged with the rest of the world. Chinese artists were exposed overwhelmingly to Western contemporary arts and philosophies. With both exposure to new Western artistic concepts and a desire to diverge from traditional Chinese art, which was seen as outdated form of art, Chinese artists wanted to modernize the Chinese arts by creating new visual lexicons and artistic languages. This thesis will discuss how The Gao Brothers were able to apply Western artistic concepts to integrate the Chinese culture and create a unique artistic language while remaining separate from the Western contemporary arts and traditional Chinese arts. The discussion will examine major influences and inspirations that led to the creation of the Gao Brothers' 2009 sculpture, The Execution of Christ, including the artists' family history, occurrences of major historical events, challenges in creating a new identity for a nation, and artistic responses to international influences. Works of the Gao Brothers will be compared and contrasted with other Chinese contemporaries and with Western and Eastern art concepts, philosophies, and techniques. These insights into the Gao Brothers' artistic development process were obtained through criticisms, catalogues, and other published materials, in addition to the author's in-person interviews with The Gao Brothers, their curator, Author Hwang, and the artists' personal art dealer and friend, Melanie Lum. The Gao Brothers are continually evolving the artistic language of their art to reflect changing world. They strive to push cultural and social boundaries to express their feelings of their cultural past as well as hope for the future. The artists are successful in creating avant-garde art by borrowing Western art philosophies and redefining conventional iconographic interpretations within their works, specifically in The Execution of Christ. The combined and redefined uses of art iconography, religious and cultural philosophies in The Execution of Christ, resulted in an artistic language that communicates to all humanity that transcends culture, time, and place.
Table of Contents
The cultural context of Chinese art -- The critical context of understanding The Execution of Christ -- Gao Zhen and Gao Qiang -- The Execution of Christ -- Composition and formal interpretation -- Catharsis and reminder of the human condition -- The Gao brothers and the neo-traditionalists -- Conclusion -- Appendix A. Interview notes and transcripts -- Appendix B. KCUR 89.3 interview transcripts -- Appendix C. Kemper art webcast, part 1 -- Kemper art webcast, part 2 -- PRI, the World: interview transcript -- Appendix G. Melanie Lum interview notes