The National Gallery of Armenia is pleased to present the Wang Guangyi’s exhibition Popular Study on Anthropology, a highly important cultural event that, while paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary artists in China, testifies our museum will to propose itself as a forge of contemporary research.
Wang Guangyi is mainly known for his series of works from 1990 to 2007 entitled Great Criticism, within which he joins the propaganda iconography of the Chinese Maoist revolutionary period with logos of Western luxury products. Often referred to as one of the inventors of Chinese Pop, Wang Guangyi is actually far from the dynamics of this artistic movement born in the Sixties in Great Britain and immediately spread through the United States so as to be identified as the American art par excellence. Differently from what happened to pop artists, Wang Guangyi’s interest is aimed essentially to theology and philosophy. Works belonging to the Great Criticism cycle must be dealt with taking the original situation into account, and the particular historical moment in which they were created, i.e. years when there was a deep political and social change in China faced by the artist with the awareness that the attempt to understand reality cannot be limited to the observation of the phenomena. What Wang Guangyi highlighted, both in his early work and in the different cycles that followed, is in fact the relationship that the individual has with faith, his need to have something to believe in: a religious ideal, the promise of a fairer world made by political leaders, the promise of material well-being offered by commercial propaganda. The propagandistic brainwashing suffered by those who live in a system dominated by the rules of capitalism, based on the creation of the desire to possess ephemeral goods, is not different from that implemented by the socialist regimes promising people that the revolution would guarantee them a bright future. Wang Guangyi thus highlights how propaganda acts on man by focusing on his need to believe.
Following this same meaning, Wang Guangyi depicts idols like Christ and Pope John XXIII as well as Marx, Lenin and Stalin in his cycle of works New Religion, begun in 2011.
Following the spirit of time, the unpublished cycle of works Popular Study on Anthropology, which Wang Guangyi has realized for this exhibition at the National Gallery of Armenia, deals with a highly topical issue: the categorization of human physical features inevitably leading to easy and instrumental simplifications based on true falsehoods which exclude, lead to exalt or stigmatize entire communities of individuals, ignoring the essence of the human being. Demetrio Paparoni, a critic who has been following the developments of Wang Guangyi’s work for many years, focuses here on this new cycle of works.
Popular Study on Anthropology highlights the arbitrariness of every interpretation and cataloguing based on physical characteristics, cataloguing that led and continues to lead to the aberration of racial persecution and ethnic cleansing. Once again, Wang Guangyi does not present himself as an artist who offers solutions to the distortions of society, rather as an observer proposing us questions related to the essence of the human being, to ask himself and make us ask ourselves what lies behind the phenomena. In doing so, he puts the observers in the condition to start their own research and give their own answers.
Director of the National Gallery of Armenia
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