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On "Go F!GURE: Contemporary Chinese Portraiture” at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia.
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"GO F!GURE” means go figure it out, for this exhibition is not so much one of portraiture in the conventional sense, as of Chinese figures, the human form as depicted by contemporary Chinese artists in painting, photography, sculpture, and video. The curators are to be congratulated on the skill with which they have selected and displayed these varied works.
One pleasing feature of the exhibition is the indirect mockery of the rule of the Chinese communist party and of the icons of its Maoist origins. The grotesque sculpture Cadre by Keping Wang is carved from a piece of found wood, using the grain to shape the nose and indicate the eyes. It is a portrait of an utterly anonymous party official, who has no face with which to express feeling, and no mouth with which to utter an opinion of his own. Just as irreverent is Xuan Kan’s video Chorus, which stars two sets of toes, each toe ...
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 31 February 2013, on page 46
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