Red All Over
Chinese Propaganda Art Exhibition
Care to brush up on China’s recent political history? Visualizing Revolution: Propaganda Posters from the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1989 is here to help, with 78 prints and original works on brief loan to UC Davis’ Nelson Gallery from the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre. If there’s a take-home message here, it is, as one wall placard rather mildly puts it, that “Mao was not friendly to intellectuals.” What that meant, aesthetically, was a certain unconcern for subtlety and an open door for the demonstrably oxymoronic style known as socialist realism. Hence, a few commanding woodcut prints rendered in history’s preferred propaganda colors: red, white and black (see also SN&R’s logo). And, elsewhere, those disingenuously idealized proletarian figures, whose characteristically gargantuan appendages are intended to suggest sturdiness but verge on grotesquery (see also comics featuring Popeye the Sailor or drawn by R. Crumb). But the images are direct and well-controlled, with strong, broad strokes and undeniable appeal. Less appealing: the chilling declaration of martial law printed on June 5, 1989, the day after China’s army opened fire on democratic protesters in Tiananmen Square. Ongoing through May 18 at the Nelson Gallery, Room 124 of the UC Davis Art Building; (530) 752-8500; http://nelsongallery.ucdavis.edu.