Oil on canvas
55 x 42 inches
Collection of Gordon Locksley and George T. Shea
Yue Minjun's distinctive paintings emerged from the Chinese political climate of the 1990s, when the continued challenges of living in communist China caused many citizens to lose faith in the possibility of attaining individual rights. The art that came out of this period—often called Cynical Realism—is a carefully composed response to the emptiness felt by students, intellectuals, and artists after events such as the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and the imprisonment of many demonstrators. Minjun makes paintings that feature individuals or groups of identical figures with raw, pink skin and grinning, mask-like faces. The figures are quasi-self-portraits, and when we look closer, we see that each smile is a forced rictus that seems to hide a hollow cynicism or deep feelings of indifference.