Wang Qingsong/Detroit/Beijing at the University of Michigan

In winter 2018, Wang Qingsong staged a new work hoping to stimulate study of urban renewal efforts in China and the United States. The resulting image was a photographic recreation of The Bloody Clothes, a 1959 charcoal drawing by Wang Shikuo. Displayed in the National Museum of China and now considered a major early socialist-period work, the drawing depicts a scene of the land reform campaign which spread across China following the Communist party’s rise to power, repealing the rights of landowners. In the image, peasants rail against the brutality of their landowner, using the stained shirt as evidence of their mistreatment. Wang Qingsong restaged the drawing in Highland Park, Michigan, highlighting the comparative effects of inequitable real estate development on local communities in Detroit and his native Beijing.

Set in an abandoned factory building in Highland Park, Wang Qingsong’s restaged photograph features more than seventy volunteers from the greater Detroit community and the University of Michigan, and collapses two moments in history to present a reminder of the human consequences of the ruthless pursuit of profit. An exhibition at the University of Michigan will present the work alongside others created in collaboration with area residents, as well as images of Detroit’s historical Chinatown and industrial-warehouses, which have undergone urban renewal since the 1960s. Wang Qingsong intends for his work to highlight concerns regarding land ownership and social justice shared across time, place, and culture.

Early last year the University held an exhibition of six of the artist’s photographs depicting transformations precipitated by China’s drive for globalization over previous decades. The artist is known for his cinematic large-format photographs that often echo canonical works of Chinese art, using actors posed against sprawling contemporary backdrops.

Wang Qingsong/Detroit/Beijing runs from 2 February – 26 May 2019 at the Irving Stenn, Jr. Family Gallery, University of Michigan. Read more here.

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