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During the ‘85 Art Movement, “Rational Painting” became a very strong artistic force; among its advocates were Wang Guangyi and Shu Qun of the Northern Art Group. In response to the sensationalism and over-zealous personality cults in the Cultural Revolution, Wang Guangyi advocated “the liquidation of the enthusiasm of humanity”, applying rational, almost logical analysis in painting. Created in 1988, Mao Zedong: P2 was one of the earliest works of Wang’s Mao Zedong series. Superimposed onto the silhouette of Mao Zedong are bold lines in red and provocative English symbols. Solid and dotted lines representing rational thinking seemingly deconstruct the Mao image, ridding it of excessive adulation. Mao Zedong: P2 is rooted in the same concept of lines and grids as Wang’s earlier works Black Rationality and Red Rationality. Mao Zedong: P2 is an ambitious work, and Wang’s earlier triptych Mao Zedong AC was among the landmark pieces included in the China / Avant Garde Exhibition in 1989. The Mao Zedong series established the artist’s position in the history of contemporary Chinese art and was a precursor to his critically-acclaimed Great Criticism series.

The joint exhibition in 1992 of Liu Wei and Fang Lijun in Beijing made the names for both artists, which led to the coining of the “Cynical Realist style” by prominent art critic Li Xianting. Highly ambitious, Born in 1989 is a rare work by Liu Wei. Similar to other artists who emerged in the 1990s, Liu Wei abandoned grand narratives in his work as a result of political dejection, refocusing his vision to the canvas itself. Liu’s brushstrokes are bold and expressionist in style, his figures distorted but full of an unusual sense of humour. Born in 1989 portrays three babies in pink as they step forward to the unknown future. The title, which is a double entendre, can be seen as a reference to politics or society, an occurrence rarely found in Liu’s body of work.