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26 Feb 2010

State of the Dao: Chinese Contemporary Art at Lehman College Art Gallery, NY

Long-Bin Chen, Old Testament Prophet, 2009
Phone books, 23' x 4' x 12'

State of the Dao: Chinese Contemporary Art
Lehman College Art Gallery


February 3 to May 4, 2010
Gallery hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 to 4pm

Susan Hoeltzel
+1 718 960 8731
+1 718 960 6991

Lehman College Art Gallery
Bedford Park Blvd. West
Bronx, NY 10468

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Longbin Chen, Liu Fenghua and Liuyong, Gao Brothers (Gao Zhen & Gao Qiang), Shen Jingdong, Yang Jinsong, Zhang O, Li Qiang, Li Song, Zhao Suikang, Miao Xiaochun, Cui Xiuwen, Xu Yong, Pang Yongjie, and Dao Zi

Patricia Karetzky, Guest Curator

Reception: Monday, March 15, 2010, 6:00-8:00 pm

'Dao,' an ancient Chinese concept means 'way,' 'path,' or 'natural working of the universe.' Daoists consider the Dao an original Oneness in things, an eternal underlying foundation of being from which the many parts of the universe continuously spring and into which they continuously return.

The state of the Dao in contemporary China is in disrepair and the artists in this exhibition explore the social, political and environmental changes of the new China - most notably, consumerism, pollution, and military expansion - as a means of restoring the balance. In this way they are fulfilling the ancient function of the artist in society. Such ideas are inherent in the poetic renditions of the Daodejing ascribed to the hand of Laozi who lived around sixth century bce. This beloved work was as much a blueprint for a utopian society as a guide to self-perfection. Government, it explains, should not interfere in its citizens' life: left alone society will find a peaceful coexistence. Daoists presented copies of the text to emperors to enlighten them. Sometimes artists were the intermediaries, performing on behalf of the members of their community: Bedecked in flowers, shamans in ancient China sang songs, performed dances, and offered gifts to the gods to assure peace and prosperity. Daoists propose rejection of corrupt society and finding solace in nature.

Faced with the current situation in China, artists are reacquainting themselves with the great literature that was forbidden during the Cultural Revolution; they are amazed and delighted by it, and comforted that they are now able to have access to this special kind of wisdom couched in witty and poetic terms. Inspired by such ancient philosophical writings they draw upon these ideas to understand their world, and some artists today have even resumed their traditional function. They take up themes in their art that reflect the current situation in China; they are acting as intermediaries in the cause of the populace and trying to establish a society in harmony with the ancient principles.