The Chinese painter and sculptor, Wang Guangyi, is the most celebrated member of the Political Pop art movement. Raised in the midst of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, where he spent his schooldays creating propaganda drawings, Wang’s art now parodies this style to comment on the ongoing influence of Cold War politics.
Wang’s most famous work, a series of paintings under the title Great Criticism, blends propagandistic imagery from the Cultural Revolution with western advertising to demonstrate the similarities between the iconography of capitalism and communism.
Most recently, the installation, Cold War Aesthetics, has presented 50 menacing life-size figures in gas marks. The work is a sculptural realisation of illustrations from a manual published by the Chinese government in the 1960s to educate the populace on how to react in the event of a nuclear or biological attack. The project is testament to Wang’s fascination with the ongoing reverberations of Cold War events: ‘To this day we still look at the world with a Cold War mentality. Today’s political state of affairs is the fruit of seeds planted during the Cold War; it is the same with 9-11, the same with Al-Qaeda. These are all different means of expression from the Cold War.’
Images: Wang Guangyi, Coca Cola, from the series Great Criticism, 2005; Wang Guangyi, People Under the Horror, from the installation Cold War Aesthetics, 2008.