“The Chinese” by Liu Zheng

Liu Zheng, Three Country Strippers, Huoshentai, Henan Province, from The Chinese series, 2000

Liu Zheng, Convicts Fetching Water, Baoding, Hebei Province, from The Chinese series, 1995

Liu Zheng, Three Women at a Country Funeral, Longxian, Shaanxi Province, from The Chinese series, 2000

Liu Zheng, A Rural Boy in School Uniform, Fengxiang, Shaanxi Province, from The Chinese series, 2000

Liu Zheng on the state of contemporary Chinese art and the genesis of The Chinese:

I have worked during an exceptional period (from roughly 1990 to the present) of radical and unprecedented change in the Chinese contemporary art scene. These years have also seen a new level of maturity in Chinese art circles. The shock waves of Deng’s policies of opening and reform and their effect on peoples’ ideology is fully reflected in contemporary artworks from the mainland. Photography, like other forms of art, went through a period of hard yet much-needed transition. During these years, the dominant role of news photography in China began to crumble, and the importance of traditional salon photography was also significantly weakened. Humanized and personalized works started to have an impact. It was in this context that, in 1996, I started the private journal New Photo with some of my friends. We all felt that a new era was coming. I was driven by a powerful intellectual force, which slowly evolved into a set of personal beliefs. For many years, it was this set of personal beliefs that helped me overcome numerous difficulties. The Chinese is the fruit of my own personal struggle.

Liu Zheng, “Artist Statement,” in Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, Wu Hung and Christopher Phillips (Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago and New York: International Center of Photography, 2004), p. 208.


About erinbarnett

Director of Exhibitions and Collections at the International Center of Photography, New York
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