Karen Stock

Theme: New Cities – New Locations

Blinded by Mao: The Challenge of Seeing Modernism in the Art of the People’s Republic

The years of Mao Zedong’s rule from 1949 to 1976 are generally characterized by Western scholars as a period of artistic sterility when the nascent aesthetic Modernism of the early twentieth century was brutally suppressed in favor of propaganda and the most noxious kitsch. However, Chinese scholars find laudable elements in works from this period when placed in historical context. Do Western scholars reflexively see Maoist era works as evidence of the totalitarian suppression of creativity and therefore fail to look thoughtfully? This period is dauntingly mercurial rather than monolithic and it is my contention that illuminating threads of alternative modernism will help recover these works from aesthetic banishment.

Karen Stock is Professor of Art History at Winthrop University, South Carolina. Stock received her masters and PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Her thesis, Bonnard, Vuillard, and Vallotton: Masculinity in Question, was completed under the sponsorship of Linda Nochlin. She has published essays on Edgar Degas and the theater (2013), Florine Stettheimer and her solo exhibition (2015), Félix Vallotton and the French interior (2015) as well as Richard Dadd and Victorian psychiatry (2016)