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Material is the Message

Exhibition co-curator Wu Hung introduced The Allure of Matter and defined some of the major characteristics of material art during this keynote lecture at the US-China Forum 2020.

The lecture provides a general historical background to the exhibition. In it, Wu proposes to rewrite the conventional narrative of contemporary Chinese art—defined through codified art styles such as Political Pop and The Cynical Realism—to focus instead on the intimate relationships between individual artists and their chosen materials. Through specific examples drawn from the exhibition and beyond, the lecture illustrates four attributes of material art: deconstructing objects/recycling materials, negotiation with painting and sculpture, an emphasis on process, and exploring traditional material culture.

Wu Hung is the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History and the College; Director of the Center for the Art of East Asia; Special Advisor to the Provost for the Arts in Asia at the University of Chicago; and Adjunct Curator, Smart Museum of Art.

The US-China Forum 2020: The Matter of Art was convened by UChicago Arts and UChicago Global in collaboration with the Smart Museum of Art. This lecture also served as the opening keynote for the Art and Materiality symposium is presented by the Smart Museum of Art together with the Center for the Art of East Asia in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago.