Blooming in the Shadows: Unofficial Chinese Art, 1974-1985 @ China Institute Gallery, NY

Temple of Heaven 1, Zhang Wei, No Name Group

Contemporary Chinese art has taken the art world by storm in the last decade through heralded museum exhibitions, well-read publications, and heavily attended art auctions. However, even with all this attention, few exhibitions have asked the question of how, against the background of thirty-five years of Socialist Realism, this internationally-oriented artwork suddenly appeared and why it captured the attention of the international art market.

Blooming in the Shadows: Unofficial Chinese Art, 1974 –1985 at the China Institute Gallery in New York introduces the work of three unofficial Chinese art groups who worked in this vein: the No Names, the Stars, and the Grass Society, all of which arose following the end of the Cultural Revolution and helped launch the avant-garde movement in China.

Beginning in 1973, the No Name Group was simply a group of self-taught and self-motivating artists who avoided the public for their own political and physical safety. The landscapes they created have unique compositions and color chords 
Shi Zhenyu
Yuyuantan Landscape, 1965

 The Star Group was active from 1979 to 1983 in Beijing. Every artist pursues freedom and self-expression in their artwork. They organized a demonstration for continuing their exhibition on October 1, 1979 which brought wide attention at the time. They presented two exhibitions in 1979 and 1980. These unofficial artists set the stage for political democracy and artistic modernism that would become axiomatic to post-Cultural Revolution China.

The Grass Society was founded in the fall of 1979 in Shanghai. This group of artists threw themselves into the pursuit of non-political ink painting, with the conviction that experimental ink painting had as much claim on modernity as did any other form of art .