Across the Divide focuses on a shared cultural identity over differing geopolitical convictions under the large frame of Chinese culture with work by twenty-five contemporary Chinese artists who are currently working in academia across the United States. With an emphasis given to artwork that blends cultural influences drawn from both Eastern and Western aesthetics, this exhibition presents both experimental and traditional approaches that artists have applied in their studio practices to explore their personal cross-cultural perspectives in relationship to the changes that have been brought by China’s current social, economic, and cultural development.
As direct beneficiaries of China’s recent reform, all artists involved in Across the Divide came to America after the 1980s for their graduate studies. Sharing a similar cultural experience, this group of artists consists of two distinct generations in relationship to the chronology of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The first group of artists from the Late-Mao era were immediate survivors of the darkest moment in China’s modern history. These artists generally uphold an artistic belief in a pictorial tradition emphasizing the merit of plastic language, demonstrated by a focus on drawing as a foundation in their search for personal expressions. A second generation of artists belonging to the Post-Mao era have enjoyed more open access to a variety of artistic media and investigated different methods of rendering images. Both groups of artists found in their American graduate schools an academic environment that not only encouraged independent studio research, but also placed personal expression into a cultural and social context for critique. While developing mature work, these individuals have experimented with a wide range of media in styles from perceptual to conceptual, and have endeavored to reconcile a discrepancy between their observation of American society and psychological impulses arising from their native experience in China.