Yu Youhan's ouevre is one that has illustrated a spectrum of his artistic versatility, and his endeavors played a key role in defining Shanghai painting after the '85 Art Movement. Combined with Western and domestic "pop" forms, Yu's inspired appropriation of conventional communist imagery has its own distinct native roots in the context of Chinese history and visual culture. Painted after the Mao Series, Untitled (Lot 1415) is a rare departure from the Mao iconography that delves into Yu's ethnic and cultural grounds and expresses in a more abstract and expressive manner recalling classical Chinese paintings in its interplay of varying hues in black and white, monotone brushwork. The subject of the literati figure is one that speaks to a realm beyond the political, and is an exceptional example of Yu's conceptual depth as well as his formal experimentation.
Having dabbled in Minimal Abstraction as early as 1980s, Yu began embracing colour in the 1990s with his Pop Art style in China and appropriating the standardized imagery of Chinese propaganda. Within Yu's colored, floral-strewn portraits, Mao's principles of "art in service of politics" and "art for the pleasure of the masses," set forth in his Yan'an talks on literature and art are given a new twist. In Mao's Silhouette (Lot 1401) Yu revisits the idea of Mao's iconicity in his later paintings with a greater expression of ideological and creative freedom. The image is one suggestive of his continued popularity and cult-like status, one that was passionately revived and rendered nearly to the status of kitsch by the growth of consumer culture in China. Across these two canvases then, we can see how Yu's paintings create visions that are culturally intimate and relevant, tapping into the unconscious power of communist iconography still held, and has the ability to evoke history and politics under new vocabulary that is passionately rooted in hope of leading the nation into new horizons.