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Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China

written by Maxwell K Hearn, Wu Hung

Metropolitan Museum of Art | ISBN 9780300197037

Hardback – 208 pages


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The ancient notion of ink art stretches far beyond works brushed in ink on paper or silk, to embrace a set of aesthetic principles centered on renewal and reinterpretation of the past.

This illuminating study by Maxwell K. Hearn, complemented by a general history of Chinese experimental ink painting by Wu Hung, examines the innovative ways in which artists have responded to, subverted, or reinterpreted traditional idioms to define a modern artistic identity that exists comfortably within the global art world while remaining indelibly Chinese. By looking at the art of contemporary China through the lens of its artistic history, Ink Art reveals in these works layers of meaning that resonate powerfully with China’s rich and enduring cultural tradition.

All 70 works featured in Ink Art date from the last three decades and were made in tandem with the sweeping social and economic changes that have taken place in China during this time. Representing 35 artists — among them Ai Weiwei, Chen Shaoxiong, Gu Wenda, Liu Dan, Qiu Anxiong, and Xu Bing — they range from variations on the written word to radical abstractions to contemporary landscapes, in media as diverse as photography, video, ceramic, wood, bronze, and stainless steel.


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