Continuing through June 10, 2018
“Winds from Fusang: Mexico and China in the Twentieth Century” explores an obscure but intriguing topic — the interchange between Chinese and Mexican artists that occurred in the 1930s and then again in the 1950s, after China had become a Communist nation. In Chinese folklore, Fusang is a mythical, exotic place somewhere to the east, and is used here as a poetic reference to Mexico. In the 1930s Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias visited China twice, and several of his stylized illustrations are in this show. His ink drawing of an opera singer posed in painted face and full costume is typical of his whimsy and simplification of line — qualities which inspired Chinese contemporaries, whose works are also included in the first gallery.
In 1956 the touring exhibition “National Front of Plastic Arts of Mexico: An Exhibition of Paintings and Prints” opened in Beijing, introducing more than 60 Mexican artists to a Chinese audience. Including works by Diego Rivera, Xavier Guerrero, Leopoldo Méndez, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, the emphasis was on art with a strong socio-political message, elevating the lives and struggles of working people. That year Siqueiros himself made a trip to China, meeting a number of Chinese artists and high level officials such as Prime Minister Zhou Enlai. Related correspondence and pamphlets are included, along with original artwork from the 1950s exhibition. The case for the show’s impact on Chinese art is made in the form of a selection of works by younger Chinese artists that it influenced. Guest co-curator Shengtian Zheng, today a curator based in Vancouver, himself was a young artist when he saw the “National Front” exhibition, and he was among those on whom it left a lasting impression.