Yu Youhan

Yu Youhan
b. 1943, Shanghai
Yu Youhan, a protagonist of the Political Pop art current, graduated from the Central Academy of Art and Design in Beijing (1970). He is now an instructor at the Shanghai School of Art and Design. After adopting abstract, mostly monochrome painting in the late 1980s, Yu shifted to compositions employing notorious images of Communist iconography as an ironical commentary on the ideological changes in contemporary society. A member of a generation of painters who were young adults during the Cultural Revolution, Yu Youhan appropriates Mao’s official photographs to create grotesque or ridiculing effects. In the painting Mao Discussing with the Peasants of Shao Shan (1991), Yu reproduces a well-documented encounter between Mao and a peasant family in his native village.
The scene is repainted in garish colours, and a sense of the grotesque is achieved through the addition of floral patterns, used as a reference to the language of folk and popular art, which was promoted by Mao as a major source of high-culture inspiration in his ‘1942 Yan’an Talks’ on art. By pushing this folk mood to excess, Yu mocks the leader (and his ideology) through the paradoxical distortion of the principles he once advocated.
Yu Youhan has participated in various international exhibitions, such as : China Avant-Garde in Beijing (1989); China’s New Art, Post-89 (Hong Kong, 1993) and China Avant-Garde (Berlin 1993); the 45th Venice Biennale, Italy; and the 1st Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, Australia.
Dal Lago, Francesca (1999). ‘Personal Mao: Reshaping an Icon in Contemporary Chinese Art’ Art Journal (Summer): 46–59.
Doran, Valerie C. (ed.) (1993;. China’s New Art, Post-1989. Hong Kong: Hanart T Z Gallery.
Knight, Juliet et al. (eds) (1996). Reckoning with the Past (exhibition catalogue). Edinburgh: The Fruitmarket Gallery.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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