The phoenix years Art, resistance, and the making of modern China

Madeleine O'Dea

Book - 2017

"The riveting story of China's rise from economic ruin to global giant in the past four decades is illuminated by another, equally fascinating, narrative beneath its surface ;the story of the country's emerging artistic avant-garde and the Chinese people's ongoing struggle for freedom of expression. By following the stories of nine contemporary Chinese artists, The Phoenix Years shows how China's rise unleashed creativity, thwarted hopes, and sparked tensions between the... individual and the state that continue to this day. It relates the heady years of hope and creativity in the 1980s, which ended in the disaster of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Following that tragedy comes China's meteoric economic rise, and the opportunities that emerged alongside the difficult compromises artists and others have to make to be citizens in modern China. Foreign correspondent Madeleine O'Dea has been an eyewitness for over thirty years to the rise of China, the explosion of its contemporary art and cultural scene, and the long, ongoing struggle for free expression. The stories of these artists and their art mirror the history of their country. The Phoenix Years is vital reading for anyone interested in China today."--Publisher website.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Pegasus Books 2017.
Edition
First Penguin Books hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
ix, 349 pages : color illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 320-338) and index.
ISBN
9781681775272
1681775271
Main Author
Madeleine O'Dea (author)
  • Beijing 1986
  • I do not believe!
  • The stars
  • Very heaven
  • A terrible beauty
  • Nothing to my name
  • Whose utopia?
  • Beijing welcomes you!
  • Isn't something missing?
  • Amnesia and memory
  • The people and the republic.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Contemporary Chinese artists, most of them painters, are at the heart of journalist O'Dea's narrative, though her book is less a history of modern art than it is a history of modern China. She makes geopolitical history accessible and engaging through the lives and experiences of such individual artists as Huang Rui, a founding member of Stars, the radical arts collective that ushered in Chinese contemporary art, and Guo Jian, whose paintings are inspired by his work as a propaganda poster artist. Through Jia Aili, an artist best known for his monumental paintings of decrepit machinery in ghostly landscapes, we learn about the Mao-era factory towns in the northeast that went into decline once China opened up trade with the West and moved production to newly built factories in the south. O'Dea writes for readers new to art, offering straightforward descriptions of individual works, and new to Chinese history, explaining the nuts and bolts of crucial policies and protests. By focusing on how individuals experienced communism and resisted it, O'Dea succeeds in making history human. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An account of the birth of modern China traces its four-decade rise from economic ruin to global giant, documenting the stories of nine contemporary Chinese artists to reveal how their careers and achievements have reflected the courage, creativity and resistance of an emerging artistic avant-garde.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

At once a fascinating account of the birth of modern China and a moving chronicle of courage, creativity, and resistance.The riveting story of China's rise from economic ruin to global giant in the past four decades is illuminated by another, equally fascinating, narrative beneath its surface'the story of the country's emerging artistic avant-garde and the Chinese people's ongoing struggle for freedom of expression.  By following the stories of nine contemporary Chinese artists, The Phoenix Years shows how China's rise unleashed creativity, thwarted hopes, and sparked tensions between the individual and the state that continue to this day. It relates the heady years of hope and creativity in the 1980s, which ended in the disaster of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Following that tragedy comes China's meteoric economic rise, and the opportunities that emerged alongside the difficult compromises artists and others have to make to be citizens in modern China.Foreign correspondent Madeleine O'Dea has been an eyewitness for over thirty years to the rise of China, the explosion of its contemporary art and cultural scene, and the long, ongoing struggle for free expression. The stories of these artists and their art mirror the history of their country. The Phoenix Years is vital reading for anyone interested in China today.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

At once a fascinating account of the birth of modern China and a moving chronicle of courage, creativity, and resistance.The riveting story of China's rise from economic ruin to global giant in the past four decades is illuminated by another, equally fascinating, narrative beneath its surface'the story of the country's emerging artistic avant-garde and the Chinese people's ongoing struggle for freedom of expression.  By following the stories of nine contemporary Chinese artists, The Phoenix Years shows how China's rise unleashed creativity, thwarted hopes, and sparked tensions between the individual and the state that continue to this day. It relates the heady years of hope and creativity in the 1980s, which ended in the disaster of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Following that tragedy comes China's meteoric economic rise, and the opportunities that emerged alongside the difficult compromises artists and others have to make to be citizens in modern China.Foreign correspondent Madeleine O'Dea has been an eyewitness for over thirty years to the rise of China, the explosion of its contemporary art and cultural scene, and the long, ongoing struggle for free expression. The stories of these artists and their art mirror the history of their country. The Phoenix Years is vital reading for anyone interested in China today.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

At once a fascinating account of the birth of modern China and a moving chronicle of courage, creativity, and resistance.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

The riveting story of China's rise from economic ruin to global giant in the past four decades is illuminated by another, equally fascinating, narrative beneath its surface—the story of the country's emerging artistic avant-garde and the Chinese people's ongoing struggle for freedom of expression. The Phoenix YearsThe Phoenix Years