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The Yi School: Thirty Years of Chinese Abstract Art

Madrid, 13 November 2008

The extraordinary development of the People’s Republic of China in recent years and the opening of new pathways of communication and business with the West have stimulated the world’s interest in Chinese culture. A series of major international exhibitions, music and film festivals, dance and theatre shows, books and literary publications have increased knowledge about this country’s contemporary creativity. Over and above the treasures of its very ancient traditions, China now appears as the setting for a change in sensibility that affects our relationship with our surroundings and tradition, time and customs. Because of isolation lasting centuries, Chinese artists have developed their own world of images, without connections to what is produced in Europe and the United States. The case of the Yi School is highly significant. Although it was born at the margin of the abstract art and conceptual art that have dominated the Western art world in recent decades, it maintains points of contact with these two. It is art lived as an experience of retreat and meditation that explores contemplation, unity and harmony. After its presentation in Barcelona, ”la Caixa” Social and Cultural Outreach Projects is taking to CaixaForum Madrid the first major exhibition of the Yi School outside China, organised jointly with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and the Beijing Culture & Art Foundation. The exhibition introduces eighty-two works by forty-eight Chinese artists of the last thirty years, divided into three periods. Yi art from the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) until the 1980s is characterised by an idealised humanism in opposition to the revolutionary slogans (Yi xiang, “mental image”). The second period is when art at a time of urban and cosmopolitan expansion recovers private spaces and incorporates Eastern symbols and writing (Yi li, “mental principle”). The third period, Maximalism (Yi chang, “mental environment”), arose at the end of the 1990s and devotes its main attention to the process and the context of the art work.

The Yi School: Thirty Years of Chinese Abstract Art, curated by Gao Minglu, can be visited at CaixaForum Madrid (Pº del Prado, 36) from 14 November 2008 until 16 February 2009.

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