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May brings Chinese art to New Jersey

By Kelly Chung Dawson in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-06 11:07

Hanging in the New Jersey State Museum is a doublesided embroidered tapestry presented by Chinese government officials in recognition of the state's decades of business with China.

Over the weekend, an exhibition titled May China opened at the museum to celebrate continued commercial and cultural links between China and New Jersey, which now counts a Chinese population of about 142,000.

Featuring 24 artists of Chinese heritage including Yang Xiaoyang, Li Wangping, Yang Jianjian, Guo Beiping and Zhou Yong, the exhibition showcases Chinese ink painting as well as the Western tradition of oil painting, as interpreted by artists in China and the United States. The resulting melange of styles and subjects is representative of an increasing cultural overlap, artist Zhou Yong said at an opening for the exhibition.

"This show is important in demonstrating to both American and Chinese people a new style that has come out of combining realism and abstraction," he told China Daily. "It's exciting work, and for a long time Americans didn't really know Chinese paintings or the Chinese spirit. More and more today, they can."

Before opening at the museum in New Jersey's capital, Trenton, the exhibition was at the National Academy of Chinese Painting as well as the United Nations in New York.

Among notable Chinese painters who attended the New Jersey opening were Long Rui, former president of the Chinese National Academy; Liu Daiwei, chairman of the Chinese Artists Association; and Li Balin, chairman of the Calligraphers Association at the Academy of Painting and Calligraphy in Karamay, a city in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region of western China.

Yang Xiaoyang, an artist who is also president of the China National Academy of Painting, said the exhibition is unusual in that it was organized by the local government in Karamay. Most China-US cultural exchanges have involved municipalities in eastern China, where economic development has been rapid. May China attempts to emphasize the cultural and economic achievements of western China, Yang said.

Located at the northwestern edge of the Junggar Basin in Xinjiang, Karamay ("black oil" in the Uygur language) is home to 38 ethnic groups and known for large reserves of oil and natural gas. The minority cultural influence is apparent in several of the pieces on display in May China.

The Karamay government planned the exhibition in hopes of highlighting its strategic vision for continued relations with the US, according to Yang.

"Since the beginning of the new century, under the background of globalization, the range, depth, innovation and adherence of art is becoming a focus of attention," he writes in the exhibition's catalog.

"However, [life] is still an important source of inspiration of each artist. In this exhibition, art from both Mainland China and the United States shows the attention and thinking of the world and the contemporary social life of the artists, who are diverse and creative.

Also attending the weekend opening were Carol Cronheim, New Jersey's assistant secretary of state; State Senator Shirley Turner; and Shing-Fu Hsueh, mayor of West Windsor township near Trenton.

In a speech, Cronheim said that over 100 Chinese companies now have investments in New Jersey that are linked to 1,000 state jobs. Ports in New Jersey and neighboring New York have long counted China as their No 1 trading partner, representing nearly a third of goods moving through the area, she said. The official also pointed out that a dozen cities and counties in New Jersey have "sister" relationships with Chinese municipalities.

"Art is an international language, understood by all," Cronheim said. "This exhibit is a wonderful example of art being a bridge between two cultures."

Hsueh said exhibitions like May China are a reminder that no matter how long a person lives in another culture, heritage remains essential to one's character.

"This is an opportunity for facilitating mutual understanding, because there aren't boundaries when it comes to art," he said. "I came to the US from Taiwan, and I know that no matter what I try to do or what I learn, my Chineseness is a vital component of everything I continue to do. We all have to learn from one another."

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