Chicago,Illinois: Grandeur and Catharsis : A re-examination of the effects of the Cultural Revolution by the Gao Brothers
Walsh Gallery welcomes Beijing-based artists Gao Zhen and Gao Qiang, also known as the Gao Brothers, to Chicago for an exhibition of new works entitled : Grandeur & Catharsis. The event opens with a reception on Friday, March 4th and continues through May 7th. The opening reception will be from 5:00-8:00 pm.
Grandeur and Catharsis features a sometimes comical, often cynical, and always odd look at the influence Mao Zedong had on one family and a country. The Gao Brother's father was one of many people who were killed during his detention by the Red Guard. Although this show references the Cultural Revolution, the works are more universal, addressing tyranny, hypocrisy, violence and political oppression wherever it may be found. Although the Gao Brothers believe that "art is about life not beauty," they strongly believe in man's potential for redemption. Works in the exhibition include large-scale sculptures as well as photos.
In the sculptural installation, The Execution of Christ, seven Mao figures are aligned to shoot Christ. One Mao figure is pictured looking with downcast eyes as if he is momentarily hesitating to follow the course. The installation takes direct reference to Manet's painting, The Execution of Maximilian, and the arrangement directly mimics the scene with Maximilian substituted by Christ. In fact, Manet's painting references Goya's The Third of May. This particular Gao's Brothers piece is a masterful nod at art historical reference, and further explores the suppression of religion pushed by Mao.
Gesture #1 is part of an ongoing project, in which nude sculptures are modeled after ordinary Chinese people each holding a gold brick in one hand while raising the other hand in a common stance that Mao used when addressing the masses in public appearances. The golden brick is a symbolic representation of a society consumed with the desire to accumulate wealth quickly. As the Gao Brothers remarks, "The Chinese psyche today continues to be infected with Mao Zedong thought, and at the same time, people care little about anything except money." Along with the photo entitled The Forever Unfinished Building No.4, this piece challenges the reasoning behind the pervasive deconstruction and reconstruction that began in the 90's.
Miss Mao No. 3 presents Mao as a woman with pendulous breasts, a Pinocchio shaped nose, and his rather iconic hairstyle. The sculpture is made of stainless steel which adds to its feeling of crass materialism and deification. The depiction of Mao with breasts ridicules the idea of Mao as the "Mother Country." At the same time it questions how the Chinese society allowed a person like him to become a glorified icon.
On a personal level, the show includes a series of 5 photographs of the Gao brothers' parents and family members. In Family Memory 1969-1999, the Gao Brothers juxtaposed a family photo taken during the Cultural Revolution alongside a recent family photo. These images are set against a backdrop of the Forbidden City wall. Beyond a personal sentiment, these photos exemplify millions of other families like theirs, who were traumatized by the Cultural Revolution.
The Gao brothers have been collaborating on installation, performance, sculpture, photography and writing since the mid1980s. Some of their works have been published in A History Of China Modern Art, China Avant-garde Photography, and The Best Photography Of China. Their work is also included in private and museum collections such as Steven Cohen, UliSigg, Charles Saatchi, China National Museum, Centre Georges Pompidou, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Princeton University Art Museum, and in several institutions across China.