On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property from the Collection of Howard and Patricia Farber

(B. 1957)
Great Criticism Series - Swatch
signed in Chinese; signed 'Wang Guang yi' in Pinyin; dated '2005' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
120.5 x 149.5 cm. (47 1/3 x 58 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2005
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner
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Lot Essay

In commenting on the artistic development of Wang's works, the art critic Lu Peng stated, that the Mao image represented the artist's desire to express the eternal, high value of mankind through art, and his wariness towards the transient ills of fashion. At the same time, Lu noted that "when the symbols of such rationality are exercised to its extremes, they somehow transform into stale and stagnant objects, and artists will have to return to figurative pictures," and that this is the vein that runs throughout Wang's Frozen Northern Wasteland Series, Neo-Classicism Series to the Rationality Series to Mao, which finally culminated in a logical conclusion with the Great Criticism Series in the 1990s.

Wang's later paintings belonging to the category of Chinese contemporary art termed "Political Pop", uniquely combines the ideological powered Communist propaganda from the Cultural Revolution with the seductive allure of Western advertising, resulting in a style reminiscent of American Pop. In Great Criticism Series - Swatch (Lot 1030), the dramatic pose of the Revolutionary figures, the high contrast, garish palette, and that composition that is starkly labeled with the logo of a commercial enterprise, all construct an image of shrewd sarcasm with the placement of "No" in black and white. In a similar manner that Robert Rauschenberg rearranged combinations of readily-found images (Fig. 1), the series are a successful culmination of the primary tools in Wang's visual vocabulary that is based on appropriation and juxtapositions of recognizable symbols of forms, placed in dynamics and unexpected new relationships that feed new meanings and expressions. Through dissociating the images from their historical context in a comical way, the ideas they symbolize mutate into critiques and are erased by the new language they are expressed in. The result is an image of displaced propagandists trapped in the cult of Pop Art (Fig. 2), shouting slogans that are at odds with their identity, roots and purpose. Wang elicits a paradoxical pictorial idiom that is not only a satirical protest, but also a vision of connecting polarity between the ideological worlds and the real world.

He exploits the visual of propaganda posters and strings multifarious critiques with it, demonstrating his acute awareness of the political power of images in art and culture throughout history (Fig. 3) and their ability to naturalize or upset ideological positions. Ultimately, the series not only laments the ironic failure of political ideology and idealism in contemporary society inundated by consumerism, it also asserts that our visual culture is founded on the power of images that manipulate and interpolate our ideological affiliations. Through the series, Wang is committed to questioning the reality and contemporary consumer society, the relationship between politics and art, and posits him as a leader of the avant-garde.

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