Calligraphy: popular agin in China

An exhibition of contemporary Chinese calligraphy that showed in New York City and was headed back to Beijing is now coming to Lawrence.

"Brushed Voices: Calligraphy in Contemporary China" will be shown Saturday through Sept. 3 at the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art on the Kansas University campus.


What: "Brushed Voices: Calligraphy in Contemporary China" exhibition.When: Saturday through Sept. 3.Where: Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas University.Special events:* July 20: Gallery talk by intern Laura Pasch, 7 p.m., auditorium.* Aug. 24: Gallery talk by Yiguo Zhang, curator from Metropolitan Museum of Art, 6:30 p.m.* Aug. 24-25: Calligraphy demonstration by Yiguo Zhang; pre-registration required. Call Kristina Mitchell, education services coordinator, 864-0137.* Aug. 26: "Fresh Ink" symposium, with presentation of several papers, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. No pre-registration required.

The show is an unprecedented gathering of 60 recent works by more than 20 leading calligraphers from the People's Republic of China. It was organized by Yiguo Zhang, now with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University.

The traditional art of calligraphy may seem an anachronism, but it has experienced an unprecedented boom in the last two decades and is immensely popular in China, according to museum staff.

Calligraphy is practiced by an ever-increasing number of artists, both amateur and professional, who are expanding the traditional art form in new and unexpected ways.

Mary Dusenbury, acting curator of Asian art at the Spencer Museum, first saw the images in the show during a visit to New York.

"I immediately was struck by the strength and vibrancy of the work," she said.

When she returned to Lawrence she showed the catalog to faculty and was able to garner support from across the campus to bring the show to Lawrence and support it with educational programming.

The exhibition includes a broad range of works that exemplify traditional and experimental styles. Some works adopt traditional script types, showing the persistence and viability of earlier scripts, while others encompass a wide variety of practices that challenge the tradition and semantic function of calligraphy.

These experimental works include using text from nontraditional sources, such as slang or popular song lyrics; varying from the formal columnar sequence or using characters of different sizes; combining characters from different script types; manipulating the character structure to play with the meaning; and creating nonsemantic forms.

The exhibition also includes several examples of contemporary seal impressions in recognition of the importance of seals in calligraphic practice.

Yiguo Zhang, who is an accomplished calligrapher, will offer two calligraphy demonstrations and workshops on Aug. 24 and 25. Pre-registration is required. For more information, contact Kristina Mitchell, education services coordinator, 864-0137, or e-mail her at

In addition, "Fresh Ink," a symposium on Chinese calligraphy, will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 26. No pre-registration is required.

Papers to be presented include: "Where are Mao Zedong's Seals? A Narrative of Structural Changes in Chinese Calligraphy in the Twentieth Century," by Qianshen Bai, Boston University; "On the Edge of Legibility: Tensions and Trends in Modern Chinese Calligraphy," by Amy McNair, Kansas University; "Figures of Speech and Wordperfecting: Xu Bing's Installations and the Workings of Visual Effect," by Eugene Wang, Harvard University; and papers by KU graduate students Veronica de Jong, Noelle Giuffrida, Kevin Greenwood and Laura Pasch.


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