April 10 Tessa Handa

Tessa Handa, Ph.D. Student

The Department of Art History, University of Chicago

The Postcard: Negotiating Modernity, Mediality, and Aesthetics in Late Meiji Japan

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Fujishima Takeji. Geisha and Biwa, from series Bijin to Ongyoku. Color woodblock print and stencil; organic colorants and inorganic colorants, metallic pigment on Japanese paper adhered to card stock. 13.8 x 8.8 cm. 1905.

Fujishima Takeji’s (1867-1943) wood-block printed postcard, Geisha and Biwa, features a geisha, clad in a boldly patterned kimono, set against a backdrop of silver metallic waves and dancing triangular shapes. This 1905 postcard is addressed, stamped, and postmarked to Meridan, New Hampshire. Now residing in the Boston Museum of Fine Art’s collection, this postcard has traversed vast distances of time and space and bears witness to a story of emerging communication networks and changing visualities in turn of the century Japan. In this paper, I argue that the artist postcard was a medial point of contact between emerging technology, aesthetic negotiation, and the masses. Through this point of contact we can access dimensions of the artist postcard’s role in late Meiji period. Specifically the artist postcard was a site for producing and seeing ideas about new Japanese aesthetics. Further, the ensuing debate over whether or not the postcard was fine art reveals the deep-seated anxiety over the recent formulation of the field of aesthetics and the boundaries of fine art. Postcards such as Fujishima’s series offered a distant and fantastic idea of modern Japan to the foreign and domestic audience that could be inscribed, sent, and ultimately possessed.

Cochrane-Woods Art Center (CWAC) Room 156 4:30-6:30pm

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact tingtingxu@uchicago.edu

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March 27th Shana J. Brown

March 27th Shana J. Brown, Associate Professor

Department of History, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa


The Gender of Antiquity: Female Chinese Collectors and Antiquarians at the Turn of the Century

Hedda Morrison Girl watching female artist

Hedda Morrison (1908-1991), Girl watching female artist painting, Beijing, c. 1933-1946.

This talk explores varieties of women’s participation in the traditionally male-dominated intellectual field of antiquarian collecting and scholarship in China. Longstanding cultural tropes generally encouraged antiquarian women to view their role as helpmeets to their husbands, themselves often prominent collectors. Nonetheless, some women of the era were able to deploy expertise in this well-respected field to develop significant and often boundary-pushing expertise in ancient artifacts and calligraphy. For example, late 19th century female collectors encouraged their male counterparts to pay attention to Buddhist statues as antiquarian artifacts, which significantly altered the direction of modern art historical research. As greater numbers of women entered artistic and literary fields in the 20th century, they remained interested in ancient materials, continuing to emulate the ideal of the female antiquarian.

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact tingtingxu@uchicago.edu

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March 25th (Wednesday) Mia Liu

March 25th (Wednesday) Mia Liu, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Asian Studies, Bates College

Peepshow and Fortunetelling: The Peach Girl (1931) and its Contesting Visual Fields


In 1931, a film titled The Peach Girl (dir. Bu Wancang) was a box office sensation in Shanghai and beyond. A love story between a rich boy from the city and a poor girl from the country turns tragic, However, while the story is rather trite, the film offers a fascinating study of vision and opticality: it includes sequences of voyeur, peepshow, photography view-finding, and fortune-telling (gazing into future). This paper attempts to argue that through such a curating of both pre-modern and modern modes of seeing, the film asserts itself (cinema) as a visual device capable of synthesis and reconciliation. While peepshows and photography can afford special (in)sight into the present, the traditional gaze and gimmicks can help peer into the past and the future. But in the film, such temporal designation is negated and dissolved. This is cinema at its most smug, believing itself poised to break the barriers of temporality of vision. And if temporal differences are dissolved, so might be the barriers between genders, social structure, popular and avant-garde art, or even tradition and modernity.


Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact tingtingxu@uchicago.edu


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March 20th Zhiyang Yang

March 20th Zhiyang Yang, Ph.D. Student

The Department of Art History, University of Chicago

Mapping the Worldview: World Architecture in the Early 1980s


Launched in 1980 by Tsinghua University , World Architecture 世界建筑 is the earliest architectural journal devoted to bringing global currents to its domestic readers in China. It thrived into as a major force in introducing famous foreign architects and designs, presenting architectural histories, theories, ongoing debates and discourses, and most importantly, reflecting upon China’s own practice and its nascent architectural culture. During the years when actual designs and built structures by overseas companies and individuals were greatly limited in terms of both variety and impact, the journal became a crucial way linking the two worlds and forming the first-hand experience for those who were interested. It has in turned formed a specific public that later rose to power and refashioned the country’s urbanscape. The study tries to not only historicize the architectural trends in the journal and treat it as an active player in internalizing a global view into the existing Chinese historiography, but also approach it as a specific means of knowledge production and communication by studying both the visual design and textural configuration. In so doing, the study hopes to shed new light on the “cultural fever” in the 1980s in China and understand how Chinese elites capitalized their resources to further voice their desires, concerns and insecurities in an ever-globalizing context.

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility should please contact tingtingxu@uchicago.edu

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Friday Feb 27th Sinéad Vilbar

Sinéad Vilbar, Curator of Japanese and Korean art

Cleveland Museum of Art

Site Specific: A Kumano Mandala Painting at the Cleveland Museum of Art

This event is sponsored by CEAS Committee on Japanese Studies


The Three Sacred Shrines at Kumano: Kumano Mandala. Japan, Kamakura period (1185-1333), ca. 1300. Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk and color on silk
The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 1953.16

Shinto-Buddhist combinatory art elucidates visually the medieval Japanese Buddhist theory of honjisuijaku, literally “original ground, flowing traces”, in which Buddhist deities manifest themselves as Shinto deities (kami) in order to communicate the Dharma to residents of Japan. The corpus of paintings comprising sacred site mandalas includes shrine mandalas (miya mandara), honjisuijaku mandalas, and pilgrimage mandalas (sankei mandara). Each has a number of pictorial conventions for conveying the combinatory nature of kami and Buddhist deity veneration. In many cases, natural or manmade features specific to particular sacred sites drive the compositions of the mandalas. This workshop presentation focuses on understanding representations of Kumano and its associated deities within the larger corpus of sacred site mandalas. Special attention is given to the composition of the Kumano Shrine Mandala in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility should please contact tingtingxu@uchicago.edu


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Friday Feb 6th Quincy Ngan

Quincy Ngan

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Chicago, Department of Art History

Qiu Ying and the Significance of Pigments in Chinese Painting

VMPEA Image_Quincy

Chinese painting has long been regarded as a tradition that rejects the use of color but treasures ink and brushwork. Complicating this conventional wisdom, this dissertation argues that, in this tradition, there are painters who utilize the socio-economic and art-historical meanings of pigments to augment their painting techniques and to enhance the meaning of pictorial motifs and subject matter. To make this argument, this dissertation takes the use of azurite blue and malachite green in the paintings by the sixteenth century painter Qiu Ying (ca. 1498-1552) as a case study; then, it situates his use of the two pigments in the long and understudied history of color in Chinese painting.

During this talk, I will conduct close reading of several paintings with three goals in mind: The first goal is to illustrate the major argument in this dissertation. The second is to discuss my methodological approach in studying pigments and its significance. The third is to invite a dialogue between traditional Chinese painting and recent scholarship on the materiality of color in Euro-American and Latin-American arts.


Friday, Feb 6th, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 157

Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Tingting Xu: tingtingxu@uchicago.edu


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Friday Jan 9th Peggy Wang

Peggy Wang

Assistant Professor of Art History and Asian Studies, Bowdoin College

Animating Time in Contemporary Chinese Art

Animating Time

This talk examines the status of history in Qiu Anxiong’s (b. 1972) video animations. As subject matter, material reference, temporal scope, personal memory, and strategy of perception, history serves as a critical touchstone for accessing Qiu’s works.  By analyzing how the artist’s historical consciousness registers his insistence on alternative perspectives, this talk seeks to complicate the common contemporary Chinese art trope of using the “past in the present.”  From national histories in Minguo Landscape (2007) and Temptation of the Land (2009) to embedded memories within New Book of Mountains and Seas (2006–), Qiu’s works reveal a key shift in how post-2000 artists are treating time and space.  Through his works, I also demonstrate the significance of considering historical excavation as both artistic strategy and art historical methodology in contemporary Chinese art.

Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Tingting Xu tingtingxu@uchicago.edu

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Tuesday Dec 9th Tang Keyang

Tang Keyang

Associate Professor, School of Arts, Renmin University of China

Curator and Architectural Designer, Tang Keyang Studio

Ten Exhibitions: Types and Methodologies of Chinese Art Spaces


Fan Mu Art Museum, Chengdu, China. An instrument factory turned into an art space. Tang Keyang designed here a temporary exhibition setting that places the artworks in front of the outdoor landscape. Photo courtesy Tang Keyang.

Ten Exhibitions is a “show of shows.” It records 10 art exhibitions which Keyang Tang engaged himself in over the past decade and illustrates their points: 10 issues concerning the exhibition of contemporary Chinese art and the making of the nation’s art spaces. Its topics comprise both the “methods,” curatorial strategies, exhibition designs, museum architecture, and the “objectives,” addressing varied cultural significance and contribution of art exhibitions that have been burgeoning in contemporary China in increasingly diverse fashions.


Tang Keyang is a curator and architectural designer based in both New York and Beijing. His studio is committed to making a unique blend of art and architectural designs that is multidisciplinary by its methodology and visionary by its goal.
Tang’s featured shows include Chinese Gardens for Living (at the German State Art Collection on behalf of National Art Museum of China) and The Paramount: A Collective Portrait of Contemporary Asian Arts (at the 2009 Boao Asian forum). He has been the curator of the Chinese Pavilion at the 12th Venice Architectural Biennale. The Glory of Classical Chinese Writing, one of his recent shows featured more than one hundred historical objects related to Chinese writing, this was exhibited at the Palace Museum from September-October 2010. Different from his peers, Tang not only designs the “software” part of his show but often makes the “hardware” for his projects. His curatorial approach is unmistakably contextual, boundary-crossing and architectural in an intrinsic sense.
As a dedicated educator and design critic, Tang has been involved in many pedagogic events for a number of Chinese and Western schools as well as institutions. He has been selected as the featured artist for New York City’s contemporary Asian art week and was among the first group of delegates to attend the Asia Society’s Young Leader Summits in Seoul. In 2009-2010, he served as the deputy director at Peking University’s Center for Visual Studies. Starting in September 2010, Tang also became a senior consultant to the National Art Museum of China and has remained as an active member on its advisory board.
Tang has written extensively on Chinese art and architecture for a wide variety of periodicals and catalogues. His recent publication includes A Garden Rising from Ruins and Delirious New York (author-designated translation). In addition to his scholastic works, Tang’s creative writings have been translated and published in several European languages.
Tang received his Doctor of Design in Architecture from Harvard University and his Master Degrees in art history/comparative literature from the University of Chicago and Peking University.


Tuesday, Dec 9th, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 156
Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Tingting Xu tingtingxu@uchicago.edu.

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Friday Nov 14 Stephanie Su

Stephanie Su

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Chicago, Department of Art History

The 1933 Chinese Art Exhibition in Paris: Constructing New Canons for European Audience

Exhibition entrance


This paper explores the formation of canons in art historical writing and exhibition through the lens of the Sino-Japanese relationship in the early twentieth century. Opened in June 1933, the Exposition de la Peinture Chinoise was the first large-scale exhibition on Chinese art in Paris, surveying its development from the Han dynasty to the early 1930s. It created a sensation in the Parisian art world, attracted unprecedented numbers of viewers and was widely covered by both French and Chinese media. Its significance, however, extended beyond its popularity. Motivated by the success of earlier Japanese art exhibitions in Paris, Xu Beihong (1895-1953), the curator of the Chinese exhibition, collaborated with French art museums, private collectors and Chinese artists to organize an exhibition that aimed to not only reclaim the cultural supremacy of China but also reconstruct new canons for European audience.  This paper examines Xu’s curatorial, rhetorical and visual strategies to engage overseas audience and historicize his own works within that narrative of Chinese art.  _________________________________________________

Stephanie Su is a Ph.D. candidate in the art history department. Her research interests include 20th century Chinese and Japanese art, Sino-Japanese relationship, the cultural exchange between Europe and East Asia, historiography, history of collecting and display, etc. She’s currently writing her dissertation on the visual representation of the past in the early twentieth century Japanese and Chinese painting.

Friday, Nov 14th, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 156
Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Tingting Xu tingtingxu@uchicago.edu.

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