This very thorough and interesting survey of contemporary Chinese art defines “new media” rather more in the spirit of the expanded field than in its more usual use to describe video and digital art. The author, a contributor to Sculpture magazine, draws the difference in her use of the term explicitly: “The twentieth century introduced a great many mediums that expanded the definition of what art is, and compared to the many millennia that art history covers, these mediums can certainly be seen as ‘new.’ In the last hundred years, alone, the art world has embraced performance and conceptual art, film and video, installation, sound art, and most recently, digital art. New media can be applied to all these terms, and the artists included in the book employ methods of one or two or all of these medium.”
Each of the artists, most of whom are not well known in the West, gets a short text and a generous selection of large color photographs from across his or her career (as the author suggests, these are mini-retrospectives in print form). And indeed, the artists use a dizzying variety of mediums as well as imagery and themes from ancient and contemporary China and from the media-saturated globe as a whole.
There’s also a short introduction to the overheated rise of Chinese contemporary art within China, and to the studio “zones” that have grown out of the boom—all from a point of view after the boom has receded, though prior to some of the most recent events in the studio zone of Shanghai, events having continued beyond the scope of any book.
Chinese Artists: New Media is a very interesting book, giving a valuable sense of contemporary art in China for those of us who haven’t traveled there, and perhaps a more coherent sense of what’s happening than even those fortunate enough to have visited the studios in China have been able to come away with.
Chinese Artists: New Media, by Xhingyu Chen.
Atglen, PA:Schiffer Publishing, 2011.
Hardcover, 176 pages, $50.00.