Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition To be Shown at Pitt Feb. 15-March 18

Issue Date: 
February 7, 2011
"Stupa" by Zhu Jinshi"Stupa" by Zhu Jinshi

A genre of contemporary Chinese art unfamiliar to many Westerners will be featured in a free University of Pittsburgh exhibition titled Mind Space, Maximalism in Contrasts, Feb. 15-March 18 in the University Art Gallery, Frick Fine Arts Building. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. An opening reception, with the two of the exhibition’s four artists in attendance, will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 14.

The exhibition, presented by Contrasts Gallery in Shanghai, China, will explore maximalism, according to the exhibition’s curator, Pitt professor of art history Gao Minglu.

“Maximalism is a concept that places the emphasis on the spiritual experience of the artist in the process of creation as a self-contemplation outside and beyond the artwork itself,” says Minglu. “Meaning is not reflected directly in a work, because artists believe that what is in the artist’s mind at the moment of creation may not necessarily appear in his work.”

The exhibition will feature works by artists Zhu Jinshi, Zhang Yu, Lei Hong, and He Xiangyu. After its showing at Pitt, the exhibition is slated to travel to Dallas, New York City, and Los Angeles.

Information on the artists follows.

Zhu Jinshi has devoted himself to abstract painting for three decades. His installation work often involves Chinese rice paper and ink. In this exhibition, Jinshi presents a metal container filled with ink and a half-submerged sheet of rice paper. As the top of the paper gradually darkens, the viewers observe the art process without human involvement.

For more than two decades, Zhang Yu has used random fingerprints to make ink paintings on scrolls. The repetition causes the fingerprints, symbols of human identification, to lose their traditional meaning and become abstract marks of beauty and infinity, according to Minglu.

Lei Hong makes pencil drawings comprising dots, lines, and squares that are characteristic of Western abstract paintings but without Western art’s rational structural elements. The dots and lines, the traditional marks of Chinese ink painting, convey a sense of spiritual humanism, a narrative about the artist’s feelings, Minglu says.

He Xiangyu uses crystallized soft drinks as ink for painting and calligraphy, transforming a commercial product into literati expressionism. Xiangyu’s art attempts to imbue the process of mass reproduction with the spiritual quality of self-meditation, according to Minglu.

For more information, contact Vanessa Trento at