(Chinese, B. 1957)
Great Criticism Series: Coca Cola
dated '2005'; signed 'Wang Guang Yi' in Pinyin; signed in Chinese (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
120 x 150 cm. (47 1/4 x 59 cm.)
Painted in 2005
Acquired directly from the artist
Private Collection, New York, USA

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Lot Essay

Wang Guangyi's 'neutral attitude' toward politics and ideology is evident and intrinsic in the Great Criticism Series.
"This neutral attitude is not detachment; instead, it indicates that art can only make effective judgments about political events and history after it has removed specific political standpoints and humanist passions, so that it can naturally present its inherent significance and value. These form the basic methods of Wang Guangyi's 'Visual Politic Science', and it is an effective means for us to understand his political nature." - Huang Zhuan
As such, the two key components in Great Criticism Series compose two distinct images - the Cultural Revolution poster and Western consumer advertisements. These visual cultural references from the past and present are deconstructed and amalgamated into a new visual language.
In Great Criticism Series: Marlboro (Lot 1403), Great Criticism Series: Coca Cola (Lot 1428) and Great Criticism Series: Dell (Lot 1427) the images and logos are appropriate from Wang's social milieu, which are then juxtaposed together within a carefully constructed realm. Once the symbols of Marlboro, Coca-Cola and Dell had separated off from specific cultural circumstances, they became a new vocabulary of meaningless and perplexing words. However for the Chinese people today avid for new and better lifestyle, these symbols are vivid images, firmly embedded in the context of their lives. Wang's Political Pop visual language subversively denoting the cultural shifts and changes in China, allowing viewers to examine their own opinion on China's past and present social problems.
As such, both paintings emit a certain standpoint to heroicize consumerism. There is nothing more capitalistic than the Marlboro and Coca-Cola symbols for the brands symbolise the awe-inspiring lifestyle of the West; and there is nothing more value savvy than the Dell logo for it symbolises the off-the-shelf electronic products that promise reliability, function and value in American mass production goods. In China, to associate oneself with these brands define ones status and taste; moreover it is to subject oneself in moving forward. Ironically, the Cultural Revolutionary poster symbolises the untenable and hollow dream of the past, in another word, and to associate with such is to revert backwards.
Within the two paintings Wang cleverly merged the past and the present - the communism and the consumerism - together. These two opposite and none related cultural references are appropriate in unifying imagery, thus creating a complex dialectic of cultural logic.

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