The exhibition features more than 80 sculptures made over Shiming’s 60-year career, including 27 works that are being exhibited for the first time in the United States. The exhibition also features 12 drawings that illuminate Shiming’s approach to close observational study of the human form and everyday life. The sculptures are subdivided into different categories including: Portraits of Family, the Henan Countryside, Restoration pieces, Spirituality, General Daily Life, Fairy Tales, and Animal Series. The retrospective will run from July 31 through September 22, 2023, with a public reception on September 6 from 5–8 p.m.
Shiming passed away in 2010 at the age of eighty-four. Founded in 2021, The Liu Shiming Art Foundation was created to preserve his legacy, work and to provide support and funding for emerging artists. This exhibition is another milestone in the growing relationship between LSAF and the university they recently announced the first Rutger’s recipient of the Liu Shiming Scholarship.
Marc Handelman, chair of the Department of Art & Design, believes that the exhibition will resonate widely to the wider communities of New Brunswick and Middesex County. “Shiming’s vision, while touching on many specific themes from the everyday to the mythical and heroic, was ultimately about life. The power of his artistic vision is that it speaks powerfully to audiences across national, cultural, and generational lines, registering a sense of connection and celebration of the everyday. We hope this exhibition is an opportunity to create deeper cross-cultural understandings for our students, offering both the vibrancy and complexity of creative production and vision by a Modernist Chinese, who is intimately shaped by the shifting cultural, historical, and geographic conditions of his time,” says Handelman.
As one of China’s most accomplished and acclaimed artists, Liu Shiming was part of the evolution of Modern Chinese sculpture when more Western styles began to influence centuries-old traditions. Recognition of Shiming’s unique talent came early, however, despite his success, he made the decision to follow his heart – giving up the prestige and admiration he had garnered – and moved to the countryside of China where he turned his attention to capturing the simple moments of daily life experienced by Chinese people.
Highlights of the artwork that will be on display include:
Nezha6.2 × 4.6 × 12.3 (in), Pottery, 1980: In this sculpture, Shiming depicts Nezha (nézhā). Nezha is a deity in ancient Chinese mythology, a demon-subduing celestial god respected by Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism alike.
Fairy Tales, Farm of a Cornman 4.1×3.3×5.8 (in), Bronze: The puppet play “Farm of a Cornman” is a large-scale puppet series. Farm of a Cornman is a beautiful place, home to the Forest Grandpa, Cornman, little hedgehogs, pigs, bears, and wolves. Characters with different personalities and hobbies come together, and many interesting stories unfold involving misunderstandings and understandings, conflicts and friendships, trust, care… ‘Cornman’ reflects their amusing and loving farm life.”
Fairytale Shoe 4.6 × 4.4 × 6.6 (in): This piece is inspired by a brain toy from the ‘Tangram’ show on CCTV’s children’s channel, a program that encourages children’s intellectual development, exercise, and knowledge enrichment through games.
Seal 7 × 3.9 × 6.3 (in), Plaster, 1986: In Chinese folk art, folk sculptures, paintings, face figures, clay sculptures, paper-cuttings, face shapes, and masks give people a sense of beauty, they are simple and good-natured. Even when depicting some scary animals, they are expressed in a good and kind-hearted way that gives people a sense of beauty, devoid of evil. The aesthetic of art also reflects a person’s outlook on life.
Seal Mother and Child 6.3 × 4.7 × 3.9 (in), Colored Plaster: Liu Shiming uses the language of sculpture to depict the interdependent affection of a mother and child seal. Love is an important theme in Liu Shiming’s works. His works not only have the love between lovers, but also the love between mother and child, and the love of animal kinship. He touches on the most essential and eternal emotions in human daily life, which are the most moving and beautiful qualities in any era and society. It is these qualities and emotions that allow us to get through many difficult moments in life and have confidence in life and the future.
Mengmeng 7 × 7.5 × 8.1 (in), Wood, 1989: Mengmeng is Liu Shiming’s grandson, and became the focus point of numerous sculptures that are part of this exhibition.
Performer Backstage 9.5 × 3. 5 × 7.75 (in), Bronze, 1983: Following a theater company through the countryside, Liu Shiming saw made-up female characters backstage. She sits on a prop box and nurses a child. Two chickens peck at her feet. Memorable, lively, and true-to-life, this scene has many elements of chance, but the small things reflect those difficult years.
The Liu Shiming Art Foundation was founded in 2021 to preserve the works of acclaimed Chinese artist Liu Shiming, as well as for the advancement of the global discourse surrounding the arts, history and culture. The fund aims to support art students and emerging artists by encouraging the creation of all forms of art and multicultural study. The Foundation goals are to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of Asian art forms and to contextualize them within a global purview. Engaging students and artists to conceptualize the creative process by focusing on a multicultural East and West perspective should be fundamental to the human experience. The foundation aims to create an engaged platform that collectively support the creation of arts, the study of art history and culture. It also shares aesthetic meanings, inclusiveness, and humanities of the art.
Liu Shiming (1926-2010) was a revered Chinese sculptor, whose works have made a distinct impact on the course of modern Chinese sculpture art. Born in 1926, Shiming attended the Central Academy of Fine. As early as 1950, Shiming received international recognition for his work Measuring Land, and thereafter, Shiming continued to make large-scale and publicly displayed sculptures. In the 1960s, Shiming resided in the countryside of Henan and Hebei provinces, where he gained a unique perspective on the working class and rural life. His time outside of the city, and closely handling folk art works in local museums, inspired Shiming to focus on everyday scenes in his works, becoming a common theme of Shiming sculptures. Today, Shiming is recognized for his ability to beautifully capture the most mundane scenes, as well as his aptitude for fusing folk traditions with modern sensibilities. Liu Shiming works have been displayed in prominent galleries and spaces across the globe, including exhibitions in Beijing, Washington D.C., and most notably a special exhibition in the main atrium of the Oculus in New York City. In 2018, the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing founded the Liu Shiming Sculpture Museum, dedicated to researching and investigating Liu’s artworks and their historical significance.
About Mason Gross School of the Arts
Mason Gross School of the Arts is a vibrant community of artists and scholars committed to pursuing excellence, innovation, and inclusivity. Its mission is to create socially relevant art, foster diverse programming and curricula, cultivate community partnerships, and advance the arts through teaching, creative activity, advocacy, and research that contributes to the public good. Comprising 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students across programs in music, theater, dance, filmmaking, and art & design, Mason Gross is housed within Rutgers–New Brunswick, a premier Big Ten research university that serves some 50,000 students and is the flagship campus of Rutgers.
Liu Shiming: Life Gives Beauty Form will be on view through September 22, 2023 at Mason Gross Galleries, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, New Jersey.