Exhibitions/ Art Object

Character Image of Black Character Font

Wu Shanzhuan (Chinese, born 1960)
Six unmounted sheets; ink and color on paper
Image (each): 33 × 26 3/8 in. (84 × 67 cm)
Credit Line:
Lent by a private collection, Hong Kong
Rights and Reproduction:
© Wu Shanzhuan
Not on view
From the mid-1980s, Wu began to play with the visual language of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), coopting and tweaking the red, white, and black graphical style of the big-character posters that defined that era. Where those posters strove for maximum legibility, Wu undermines understanding at every turn. Four of the six images exhibited here are legible—“yes, this, crowd, yet” (是,此,丛,而)—while the characters in the other two images have been effaced or torn. But even the legible characters defy interpretation. By selecting words that function as grammatical particles, Wu removes the possibility of reading meaning into them. Works such as these made Wu one of the pioneers of language-based art in China in the 1980s.
Acquired direclty from the artist in Hong Kong in 2007 by the current owner, a private collector living in Hong Kong.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China," December 9, 2013–April 6, 2014.