As a core figure of the pioneering group of Cynical Realist painters, Wang Jinsong's contributions to Chinese contemporary art history should be readily apparent. Wang introduced a set of techniques and strategies that have come to be closely associated with the first half of the 1990's, taking up certain visual qualities of Rational Painting while injecting a sense of social malaise and black humour that accompanied the turn from conceptual art to pseudo-propaganda after 1989. In Blind Man's Band (Lot 1023), begun in 1990, the viewer finds a series of silhouettes that could only have been influenced by the cool and disinterested compositions of the Northern Artists group and the Pond Society; nonetheless, Wang distorts faces and garments to reflect a remarkably brutish sensibility of his own, also flushing many figures of any colour in an aggressive symbol of alienation.
Wang Jinsong plays a fundamentally intermediary role in moving from the more cerebral work of the late 1980's to the brawny, passionate, and violently tones of the early 1990's. Contributing various elements to both Cynical Realism and Political Pop, there is a particularly generational quality to much of his work throughout the latter decade. Snooker Player (Lot 1022), completed in 1994, continues with similar tactics of visual alienation, as with the repeated pale figures against iconic backgrounds in rich palettes, skewed sense of perspective in the foreground and background, and strikingly muscular drapery. Here, however, there is an added reference to the culture of hooliganism evident in the shift from a jazz band to a street snooker table, pinning down the iconic nature of triviality within a broad cultural transition from an atmosphere of general angst to shallow preoccupations.
Just as the movements he helped initiate were coming to a head, however, Wang Jinsong turned his back on Cynical Realism only to return over a decade later, long after it had gone out of fashion, while in the meantime he occupied himself with what one might consider constructive aesthetic tasks opposed to the detached irony of such hooligan painting. The One Child Policy Series finds the artist painting portraits of families with exactly three members: two parents and a child. In One Child Policy Series No. 19 (Lot 1020) the parents' faces are emptied. In some cases it is the child who is depicted in a dull black and white, while in others the facial features of the parents are left blank. Pointing further to the biopolitical manipulation of personal relationships, Standard Family Series No. 8 & No. 18 (Lot 1021), likewise dating to 1996, is from a series that consists of some 200 photographic portraits of families with the same basic structure, which would become a recurring element in Wang's work as he returned to the families in question in search of the signifiers of youth culture, aging, and consumerism.
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