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Jan 14, 2010 12:48 PM by JThibodeaux

Hilliard University Art Museum - UL Lafayette

An unprecedented event will take place on January 23, 2010 at The Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. East/West: Visually Speaking is a first of its kind exhibition of contemporary Chinese Art, featuring thirteen Chinese artists whose works reference Western stylistic history. Many of the objects on view bring to mind an eclectic yet meaningful method by which Chinese artists appropriate material from Western culture to create new forms and meaning in their work. "As a university museum our mission is to offer exhibitions that provoke thought and create dialogue" says Mark Tullos, Director of the Lafayette museum. "This is probably one of the most significant international projects undertaken by an American museum in the south."

Images of Mao Zedong mixed with western religious symbols and commercial icons such as the Pizza Hut logo are among the more thought provoking pieces featured in this exhibition. As is a sculpture of the Dying Slave by Michelangelo covered in acupuncture needles. All bring together familiar symbols of China's cultural heritage and iconic Western images.

Exhibitions of contemporary works from China have recently gained attention in the Western market through exhibitions at major galleries. Few, however, have appeared in the Southern US cities. The Hilliard University Art Museum is the first institution to bring contemporary Chinese artists to this region. The exhibition focuses on visual language as a thematic link between artworks. The exhibition opens to the public on January 23, 2010 and will run through May 1st.

In East/West: Visually Speaking, thirteen Chinese artists were selected by Hilliard Museum Curator of Exhibitions and Collections, Dr. Lee Gray. The artists' works include two and three dimensional pieces where there is an obvious merging of Eastern and Western visual languages. While in some works the reference to Western culture seems adoring especially to the visual culture lexicon, in other works it appears to parody the West, its cultural symbols and values. Each participating artist presents a multifaceted view of contemporary China as it struggles to define itself in the post-cultural revolution and its new place on the world stage.

Many of the artists in this exhibition were born during the period of the Cultural Revolution. Hence, they represent the generation of artists who came-of-age during a time of enormous change in Chinese culture, and they are the link to China's past, its present, and its future. Caught between the dense weight of history and tradition, this generation is the first in many years to experience a connection to the West.

The evolution of contemporary Chinese art parallels that of American arts after WWII in a number of ways. Like their American counterparts in the 1960s and 70s, Chinese artists of the 1980s challenged social conditions in China and questioned established rules of social order and morality.

Today the spotlight is on China as a political and economic force. It is being watched by the entire world as more businesses look to the east for economic opportunity. China has become a dominant player in the world economy.

"I see a real opportunity here for economic development," says Tullos. "I believe it's possible to establish relationships through sharing art that may lead to business and tourism opportunities."

The exhibition is sponsored in part by China Visual Arts, Ltd, and a cultural development grant from the Lafayette Convention and Visitor's Commission. The exhibition will travel nationally after the Lafayette debut.

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